Valery & Gleb: Comic Pantomimes from Russia

One of the most interesting thing about studying in IIT-Bombay is that we keep having a bunch of interesting events every week. This week the Institute Cultural Council launched its new initiative ‘World Wide Cult’, a series of cultural performances from across the world, spread over the semester. The first show on Friday (Nov 9) introduced to us two brilliant Pantomime artists from Russia.

Valery and Gleb are the only performers, who represent professionally the pantomime art at the modern variety performer stage in Russia at the moment. The unique group that unifies the best traditions of the European and Russian humor. It was set up to evolved from “MIM” the student pantomime studio-theatre in the Ural polytechnic institute in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg).

We all are quite familiar with mime routines, and I went with a similar idea in mind, but turns out pantomime is that and much more.

Pantomime is a curious entertainment – a form of ritual theater staged around the winter solstice. Originally silent (a form of mime), it is now anything but, with extensive vocalization from both the performers and the audience. The stories are generally well-known (drawn from popular folk-tales and similar sources), populated with stock characters. Scripts change from year to year, but generally contain four strands of humour: visual, topical, corny and, occasionally, downright rude.

They show could roughly be divided into three parts. The first one dealt with a few short stories and my favourite one out of those was “The Immigrant” with Gleb being the immigrant moving to America, while Valery performed lot of parts one of which was being the statue of liberty and also a very rough sea.

The second part was more of their impressions inspired by India, the auto drivers, yoga and snake charmers had their fair share of lime light. While Gleb had difficulty pronouncing snake charmer, Valery decided to make it easy for us by announcing “Sapera”.

The Face Yoga

Valery had quite the animated face and reminded me of Jim Carrey.

The third part was where they brought in volunteers (well more like picked the lucky few) to stage and for the final set Gleb took the role of a conductor while Valery along with 3 more students formed the orchestra. Although the students mimed as a violinist, guitarist and a drummer, the instrument given to them was a metal bell, and it was quite the performance.

Shot quite a few pictures with a 70-200mm lens, and should be putting them up soon.


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