Force of gravity defies bath water

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 January, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 January, 1994, 12:00am


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Timepiece by Daniel Stein, Fringe Theatre, January 20-23.

THE music faded with the house lights. When the stage lights came on, Daniel Stein was sitting on a stool; and, although Stein is a mime artist, he spoke. He talked about music, and how one could be moved by it. At this point, many in the audience must have hoped, albeit in vain, that the Fringe Club management would be sufficiently moved to pull the switch on the intrusive, amplified music that came through loudly and clearly from the bar.

Stein's spoken introduction served to attune the audience to what he called ''visual listening''. He recommended that an audience, when presented with a piece of mime - or any ''difficult'' work at art, for that matter - should consider the sensuous pleasure of immersing oneself in a hot, steaming bath.

The enjoyment of the sensation is not interrupted by thinking about the meaning of taking a bath; and so it is with watching mime. Allowing the senses the freedom to perceive what they will, rather than doggedly trying to force the mind to understand, helps to avoid frustration and alienation.

Teacher and mime, Stein is fascinated by the mechanics of his art. This was demonstrated when he performed a piece using a plumb line, an infallible indicator of what is vertical. Shifting one's centre of gravity is fundamental to mime, since it allows departure from the vertical while giving an impression that the artist is standing upright, especially if a prop is placed at the same angle.

A mime artist, then, is an illusionist, and Stein is a splendid exponent.

With the seemingly simple use of a rope, he juggles with our perceptions of space, and creates different planes in which to work. Almost each moment contains a surprise.

This is also true when Stein dons a double-faced mask, picks up a staff and enthralls us with a brilliantly executed fight between two combatants. Although it must have been rehearsed meticulously, the course of the contest appeared to happen quite spontaneously, upon impulse.

Similarly, in a delightfully whimsical piece involving a romance between two chairs, Stein reveals a complete mastery of his art. At the end, I found myself smiling contentedly, much more so than if I had stayed at home in a hot tub.