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Jo Tomalin

Mummenschanz: Physical Theatre

By December 11, 2012No Comments
Image of Company members of Mummenschanz at Cal Performances November 23-25, 2012. PHOTO: Gerry Born


Mummenschanz returns to Cal Performances November 23-25, 2012. (Above) Photo: Gerry Born

The Fantastical World of Mummenschanz

image of Mummenschanz Photo Credit: Gerry Born

Photo Credit: Gerry Born

The celebrated physical theatre company’s latest show “40 Years of Mummenschanz” performed on November 23 – 25, 2013 at Cal Performances, Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley. Mummenschanz is a world class company based in Switzerland, that tours internationally and last performed at Zellerbach in 2010.

This show is not to be missed! Why? Well Mummenschanz creates life out of anything inanimate – such as every day objects – using fabric, plastic, tubes, wires and boxes to create large shapes and forms that embody human characteristics and communicate non-verbally. This completely silent show comprises almost thirty different visual sketches and is not only clever when bringing the objects to life, but the creators, Floriano Frassetto, Bernie Schürch – the current Artistic Directors – and the late Andres Bossard experimented during the early 1970s with different objects to explore the full extent of the characters, their physicality, movement vocabulary and emotions. These qualities are appreciated by the audience because each sketch follows through a range of movement and precise manipulation, challenging the simplicity of the objects to reveal a depth of meaning through imaginative play that’s magical.

This year’s show “40 Years of Mummenschanz” is exactly that – a feast of sketches developed during the company’s lifetime, with old favorites and newer creations, wonderfully performed by the international cast of Floriana Frassetto, Philipp Egli, Raffaella Mattioli and Pietro Montandon. The stage is often dark with strategically placed dramatic lighting design by Jan Maria Lukas, which beautifully highlights the objects as they move and react. In fact, many people return to see a Mummenschanz show more than once, because their fantastical world is so unique and entertaining.

Where else can you see a surreal pair of giant hands open the curtains or walk off the stage to play with the audience? Or what about an orange fluffy ball that enlarges slowly, comes alive as if it has eyes, then rolls, tumbles and flops trying to mount a platform, while gaining the empathy of the audience? Imagine a taller than human size bendy tubular yellow slinky sliding around the stage throwing and catching a large red ball – then interacting with the audience…Mummenschanz creates the impossible!

Image of Mummenschanz Photo Credit: Pia Zanetti

Photo Credit: Pia Zanetti


In another brilliant sketch, rolls of blue toilet paper become features on a mask – that transition as the actor wearing all black tears off pieces to make a scarf. Then a pink toilet paper mask character comes in, they play and try to outdo each other – culminating in a sweet romantic moment as “blue” cries tears, by pulling off squares of paper from his toilet roll eyes, then deftly creates a bouquet by picking up all the paper on the floor for “pink”.


After the intermission, bubble plastic floats in green lighting to shapeshift to become fish and then fireflies; black light figures become Cocteau like silhouettes of sexy legs and profile faces, and a small crinkled shape grows into a huge boulder and rolls down towards the audience tantalizingly…and more.

Look out for Mummenschanz next time and expect the unexpected and a wonderful sensory experience for all the family to enjoy.

More information and tickets:

Jo Tomalin
Critic World