CULTURE

Marcel Marceau, legendary French mime artist, still going strong at 80

In Athens for a performance at the Herod Atticus Theater this Saturday, Marcel Marceau, one of the greatest mimes of our time, will present a two-part show, beginning with «Style Pantomie,» a panorama of various mime characters, and followed by «Bip’s Adventures,» Marceau’s hero in hilarious and tragic situations. Drawn to theater and influenced by film and the heroes of the silent-movie era, Marceau had exclaimed early in his career: «I will either be a mime or nothing.» Marceau has certainly remained true to the statement. The veteran artist, who turned 80 earlier this year, has devoted an entire lifetime to his art form. As an artist, Marceau was influenced by Charles Dullin, a famous French actor and director, and Etienne Decroux, a well-known mime of that time and author of the book «Paroles sur le mime» (A Few Words About Mime), a «grammar book» of the art of mime, in which Decroux stresses the pantomime of the body and expresses the view that a mime can be likened to a «moving statue.» Decroux’s doctrine weighed heavily on Marceau throughout his life. After a long struggle to create an international school of pantomime to help preserve Decroux’s teachings, Marceau founded the educational institution in 1978 with support from the City of Paris. «In order to become an artist, you don’t just need to learn a technique or to graduate from an art school. You need the proper environment and a dramatic method that will guarantee your development as an artist,» Marceau has noted. «Students should understand that the structure of their technique, the mechanics of the tragicomic, the codification of the form and the spirit which pervades it, all this is taught in the school but is complemented by the student’s personal experience and relation to the public.»  As a director of the Compagnie de Mime, Marceau has directed and interpreted countless pantomimes, all of which bore the stamp of his distinct style. Classic works include «The Overcoat,» «Death Before Dawn,» «The Man with the Flute,» «The Pierrot of Montmarte,» «The Three Wigs,» and «Bip.» He has also directed and acted in several films, including «The Overcoat» and «Exercises in Style.»