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Mime artist bows out -

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Mime artist bows out

Broadcast: 24/09/2007

Reporter: Kerry O'Brien

The world's best-known mime artist, Marcel Marceau, has died, aged 84. Kerry O'Brien spoke with him
when he visited in 2003.


KERRY O'BRIEN: Marcel Marceau, the greatest name in mime, is dead at 84.

The young Frenchman emerged from World War II where he had fought in the Resistance and helped
saved the lives of many fellow Jews, to singlehandedly resurrect the art form.

Inspired by the great silent screen stars, Charlie Chaplin in particular, Marceau formed what was
the world's only then mime company in 1949, and played around the world to rave reviews for the
next six decades.

His signature character was Bip the Clown, his own version of Chaplin's Little Tramp, and his
language on stage was universal. Here is part of an interview I recorded with the great man in
Melbourne four years ago.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Marcel Marceau, you were quoted once as saying, "Never let a mime talk, he won't
stop." Is that what happens after a night of silence on stage?

MARCEL MARCEAU: Well, I think that I don't feel sad and it's like speaking to people... singing. I
try to be deep in my art form, to bring laughters [sic], melancholy. I love the theatre and I think
that when I play my character Mr Bip and my numbers, I think I have a feeling that I enter deeply
in the theatre world, you see. Because I love to communicate with the people. They laugh all at the
right moment, they are moved at the right moment, and I think that silence for me does not exist. I
think it's the weight of the soul which comes out.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Yours has been a remarkable life so far. People say there's only one Marceau, just
as they say there was one Charlie Chaplin.

MARCEL MARCEAU: I met Chaplin in '67. I went to the airport, Chaplin and his wife Oona and five of
his kids were going to Verbier in Switzerland, and it's like a miracle meeting Chaplin, there was
no rendezvous specially. He came this day. And we met together, it was very moving because a moment
I said, "You know, when I was a child I imitated him, he was my God, and still he was my God." And
I started meeting, miming Chaplin and he, beside me, he did Chaplin, too. You see, the Tramp. And,
of course, then Oona said a certain moment, "Charlie, we have to go to Verviers," and I kissed his
hand, because I knew I wouldn't meet him again. And when I kissed his hand, he had tears in his
eyes. And I wonder why? I think because he knew that the time was no more before him, you see. It
was a sort of tristesse, a melancholy. I will never forget this moment when we met together.

KERRY O'BRIEN: What is it about mime? What is the magic of mime? What makes it special in the

MARCEL MARCEAU: The depth, the breathing, the depth, the looking, and to take everything deeply. If
I do this for instance, I feel that I am a bird. If I do this, I am fish. And I feel that if I do
this, it's like a song. And I think I want to show this depth in the art form. It's like... I would
say there is a certain magic. If this magic doesn't come out, we lose our public, making the
visible invisible, and the invisible, visible.

KERRY O'BRIEN: It's been a very long life on the stage, nearly 60 years. You've known and worked
with many famous artists. Is it possible to isolate the highlights, the precious moments?

MARCEL MARCEAU: I want always to bring emotion. I think this is important. I will tell you an
example. When I did the butterfly, the moment I kill the butterfly like a child, you know. And I
did this, and the people were moved. And then because I compared it to the heart, the feeling that
is extension of life. And when I did it at the beginning I didn't think it would be so deep. And
this is what I tried to do in every number.

If it's a cage, if it is a number which shows love, even in a number like the hands when I show the
evil and good with my hands. The whole body has to move, even if the hand. If I look for instance,
not only the eyes, it has to come out of every part of the body. You see, even if I do this, I
extend my hand, you see. It's musicality. It's deep, deep theatre. You see, words create images and
silence, I said, has to create the image, too. And this is what the people remember and they come
back for that.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Of course, the world might have lost Marcel Marceau in World War II. As a French Jew
you had to survive the Holocaust. The Nazis took your father, killed your father, and you had to
survive your involvement in the French Resistance. What was the impact of that war on your art?

MARCEL MARCEAU: Well, I did a number called "Bip Remembers" about this - to fight for peace, no
more war. And I think that it made my art much deeper. And I think that I believe in humanity. I
think the time when people will form one world on this little planet and there will be peace, then
maybe we'll enter the golden age. For the moment, it's not the case. We can never forget what wars
did to people and we have to continue to learn from life and to bring enlightenment to humanity.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You've created some classic characters over the years, do you have an all-time

MARCEL MARCEAU: Well, I think I make a selection. I tried to do the best life of a man from the
cradle to death, the hands as I said, the creation of the world, and even the Bip character. I
tried to show that I am like Don Quixote, a man who struggles with the windmills of life.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Marcel Marceau, thank you.

MARCEL MARCEAU: The rest, as Hamlet said, is silence. And I will do for the public, this.