Imagine: You're out on the town in Paris, perhaps knocking back a few too many glasses of Bordeaux, when, all of a sudden, a sad-eyed clown taps you on the shoulder and starts a mime performance called "The Rite of Sleep." No, you aren't dreaming, this person is not the fruit of your (slightly) inebriated imagination, nor even a pickpocket trying to lift your wallet.
You have encountered a "Pierrot de la Nuit," or Night Mime. These "nocturnal artistic intervention squads" are officially being launched this weekend in 15 Parisian neighborhoods. It's an initiative of the Paris mayor's office, which has adopted a strategy that has already proven effective in Vienna and the Spanish cities of Tarragona and Barcelona. According to a statement from the city of Paris, the aim is to use "language, theater, mime, and dance to raise awareness among residents, bar-owners, and night-owls" about noise pollution.
But how is this going to go over with a Parisian population of inveterate complainers and partiers, who have already been mourning the death of Paris nightlife for several years now? Couldn't it backfire by activating their rebellious streak? To deal with a reluctant public, the initiative mixes street art and mediation. The 37 mimes work in trios (two performers and a mediator) and employ all their abilities (mime, acrobatics, dance) to encourage people to celebrate without shouting so that everyone can get along. In June — when the warm weather brings out even more revelers — their ranks will increase to 60 performers with 20 much-needed (we're guessing) mediators.
So are these mimes just cops dressed as jesters? It seems not. Speaking several languages, sporting colorful costumes, their goal is simply to calm everyone down so that the night can be enjoyed by all. The statement from the Paris mayor's office strikes a reassuring tone: "street performance is not perceived as aggression; on the contrary, it obliges people to listen and be respectful." As the mimes themselves put it, "silence is not repressive, but a form of sharing."
To get a sense of what these performances — part quality-of-life outreach, part happenings — are like, click on the video below: