Mimraj 2006 - celebrating fifty years of mime in the Czech Republic

Exactly fifty years ago, on August 1 1956, the country's first ever official mime performance was staged for the public. It was a graduation performance by students of the Prague State Conservatory. With "A Night of Three Mimes" at the Clementinum, the group of dancers never dreamed their show would start off a tradition of mime in the country. Now, to celebrate this anniversary, a six-month festival has just been launched. Dita Asiedu reports:

Mimraj 2006 will showcase the best of modern Czech mime, clownery, and grotesque throughout the next six months. Not only does it celebrate 50 years of Czech mime but also the 25th anniversary of mime by performers with hearing disabilities, and the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the AMU Academy of Arts in Prague.

With a variety of shows the public will be introduced to everything that Czech mime artists - both well established and young performers - have to offer. The popular actor and mime artist Boris Hybner is one of the organisers of Mimraj 2006. He describes his performance:

"The working title is 'the Gagmoons'. These are bizarre creatures that live on a neighbouring planet. They have a strange and intense love for another planet that keeps on appearing above the horizon - planet Earth. One day, they get their hands on a telescope and examine the behaviour of us earthlings and without understanding what they are doing, they try to imitate us. That endless love for the blue planet above the horizon drives them to keep on imitating us until...it's a tragicomedy."

The festival officially begins on Tuesday. Just like fifty years ago, "A Night of Three Mimes" will be performed at Prague's Clementinum, but this time by students from the Academy of Arts' Faculty of Nonverbal and Comedy Theatre. The main events will take place at the Divadlo Komedie (Comedy Theatre) in Prague, where visitors will also see performances of three ensembles of mime artists with hearing disabilities.

Mimraj 2006 will also offer accompanying programmes. There will be seminars on the most important Czech mime artists. An exhibition of photographs documents the history of mime in the Czech Republic and a new book on the same topic will also be launched.

"I'm sure that this series of mimes will prove to the Czech nation that it has something on the cultural scene that it can call its 'family silver' and that it is something it can be proud of. This is not only because it is original, funny, and full of emotion, but also because it offers a universal language. In the Europe we live in today, a Europe without borders, we can all use this language that Norwegians, Italians, the Irish, and the Turks can understand. I think if a few people promoted this ancient form of communication it would lead to the rebirth of mime, and would make the next fifty years without the Iron Curtain much more interesting."

The festival will officially come to a close on December 16 when older more established Czech mime artists will symbolically pass on a baton to the younger generation.

For more information on the festival, please visit its official website at www.mimraj.cz