Mime could mean:

  • working in silence, or with few sounds or words, to show activities, eg painting a wall or opening a door.
  • working with dialogue but while miming any props or set, eg using the audience as a mirror to apply make-up while addressing another character onstage.
  • Physical theatre, which often incorporates mime techniques and where actors can also mime items of set or props
Charlie Chaplin performing in the film The Great Dictator
Charlie Chaplin in the Great Dictator, 1940 Credit: Charles Chaplin Productions/Ronald Grant Archive

Silent film star, Charlie Chaplin was one of the most famous performers to use mime in cinema. His performances in films such as The Great Dictator and Modern Times contributed greatly towards the popularity of the medium in the 20th century. Whilst the French performer, Marcel Marceau’s stage and screen persona of ‘Bip the Clown’ made theatrical mime popular worldwide. Marceau described mime as ‘the art of silence’. If you watch videos of these artists’ performances, you can see the level of skill involved.

Mime artist Marcel Marceau performs at the Geffen Playhouse, 2002
Marcel Marceau Credit: Getty Images