Le Mot

DURBAN’S very own French Mime artist, Le Mot (Sibo Masondo, pictured) is all set to be a major feature at uShaka Marine World’s popular dolphin show over the winter holidays.

Following which he can be enjoyed on stage in the eco comedy for kids titled Einie Meanie Greenie Grow!

Masondo, who is involved with the the International Association of Theatres for Children and Young People Theatre4Youth programme, is deaf and has been honing his non-verbal artistic skills to build his career.

Tonight spoke with his mentor, local arts practitioner Gisele Turner, to find out more about Masondo’s journey to becoming Le Mot.

“I used to teach creative drama at Fulton School for the Deaf many years ago and was very excited by the work we did together – dance, mime, comic routines, physical theatre, mask work, props manipulation and object animation, to name a few…

“I reconnected with Fulton last year with the intention of offering theatre skills to students who had the talent and who were interested. The deputy principal put me in touch with Sibo Masondo’s sponsor, the Alessandri family, and I have created a special course for him, designed to channel his potential and capacity into a career.

“Sibo and I connected immediately and we have been working on a variety of projects since February,” she explained.

Turner said mime was one of the oldest art forms.

“It grew out of the revels of the ancients Greeks, was used by wandering entertainers in Italy in the commedia dell arte tradition, but it was not until Frenchman Deburau refined it in the early 1800s that it came close to what we know today.

“After World War II it was French mime artist Marcel Marceau who popularised mime and he also taught it according to a strict classical system. The ‘look’ of the French mime artist also became popular due to Marceau – the body-hugging clothes in black and white, the painted face, the white gloves, the beret and soft black shoes. Certain routines became well-known; like the mime in the box, climbing a ladder, pulling a rope, walking against a heavy wind and so on. These routines have been elaborated and developed and form part of a classic mime repertoire. You need to be very fit, very agile, very fluid and very precise to be a good mime artist,” said Turner.

As to how different French Mime is from other forms, Turner said she thought it was the basis on which mime artists all over the world developed their style, but that contemporary mime allowed for creative exploration that reflected the artists’ personality and culture.

Turner said Le Mot had come a long way and was involved in the Theatre4Youth programme.

“I am currently working as a Theatre4Youth mentor; one of the groups chosen to be part of the mentorship programme is Lashona, a community theatre group based at St Wendolins (near Pinetown).

“I have a history with Lashona; we had a plan to work together on some creative projects, including a Zulu version of Lucky Strike, the play I wrote in 2011, which is now a set work for Grade 7 pupils… I introduced Sibo to the Lashona guys and we are working on getting this play into shape so it can tour primary schools.”

Masondo is also rehearsing Einie Meanie Greenie Grow!

“Sibo has a real talent for working and playing with props. He brings them to life with such playfulness and he has a strong comedic sense. I have always loved the environmental theme and have been involved in creating and directing performances for kids that bring home the green message. In Einie Meanie Greenie Grow! Sibo performs as a one-man show; he is a delightful eco clown who loves his garden and is determined to have a good ecosystem… After the July holidays, we will polish the production and we intend to offer it to schools by September. We will also look for opportunities to participate in festivals with the play.”

Turner said Masondo’s career was a great example of the sustainable benefits of the arts.

“As a self-employed theatre practitioner over 40 years, I am proof that it’s possible to earn a living doing what one loves best. The trick is to diversify and be versatile. Sibo will be able to perform shows in primary schools and be my assistant in Mask & Mime Workshops for high schools; his skills make it possible for him to be part of the corporate scene and the street theatre scene.

“The opportunity given him by uShaka is a step in the right direction; holiday work means sustainability and independence. That’s the idea: that Sibo will be able to earn his living as an artist, using his talent, and be a role model to those who wish to do the same,” she said.

• Catch Le Mot performing his classic French Mime routines and improvised audience interactions before the dolphin shows at uShaka on July 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 and 20.

Call uShaka on 031 328 8000.