Review Bill’s 44th, London International Mime Festival, Barbican Centre by James Ellis 

Photo Credit: Richard Termine


 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

In what might prove to be a testing trip to London, amid strikes and cold streaks, any fears or doubts floated away on opening night, an hour in the company of Bill for this 44th birthday.

This work of Dorothy James and Andy Manjuck is what could only be described as the the creation of an apparition, or more specially Bill. He is brought to life with such conviction, a mere pot-bellied torso, arms and eyeless head. The fun and bravado of Bill prepping for his big night, is gradually met with disappointment and the awful feeling of loneliness, something we can easily relate to, the past few years considered. 

Thanks to the easy appeal of the show and witty, British like humour this will go down very easy. Dorothy and Andy have a kinetic energy, each sharing one of Bill’s arms, the former also accommodating his torso, the latter his head. There is Mr Bean and Wallace and Gromit in some of the flamboyant mannerisms and weird dance moves, Andy’s legs are also Bill’s legs. It held up as rather touching as well, Bill later watches a VHS seeing his life go by from cradle to current day, a smaller wooden puppet used to astounding effect. Surreal, drunken episodes feature party crashing balloons and a giant version of Cary the carrot, a crudités that no one ate.    

Photo Credit: Richard Termine

This is a piece which has seen some delays in getting out there, this being Bill’s first London adventure and we simply cannot believe his luck. Also, shoutout to Jon Riddleberger who dealt with a lot of the prop side of things and was an extra injection of humour, amid the sad revelations. Music by Eamon Fogarty was also noteworthy for each vibe and tone change. We are all essentially Bill, finding our way in this post-pandemic world, seeking friends to define and make us, to aid in the blandest of life and also reflect upon the pang of memories filled with regrets and of course, happiness.

In short, London loves Bill!     

Bill’s 44th continues at The Pit, Barbican Centre till 4 Feb 2023.   

Photo Credit: Richard Termine

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