Reviews of Thomas Leabhart’s Performances
One of the most gifted and accomplished disciples of Decroux is Thomas Leabhart…a superb solo performer. Leabhart’s body is transforming and transposing itself through a series of highly charged postures and moves–sudden cringes; startling grabbings of his head and torso by clutching fingers or twisted arms; swift, smooth falls and rollovers. There’s a wild disjunction to it all–often parts of the body seem to be going in opposing directions and tempos at the same time but also a crazy internal logic. And one of the things the piece seems to be saying is that no one can have “the answer” to the riddle of mime’s essence.
— The Washington Post, 8 July 1984
He uses a great deal of language, usually in a carefully precise, somewhat literary way, both for its content and its colors. He also uses music and slides, all layered in with a deeply personal movement style that’s packed with the same elusively abstract gestural meanings as modem dance Throughout both pieces, there’s a strong undercurrent of artistic self-questioning, of the artist shaping a response to the modem world even as he’s being formed by it. Leabhart is never obvious about this, and his evocative, abstract movements resist social didacticism. But in the startling grabs of his head, the cringed internal tensions, the unexpectedly broad swoops and whirls, the sharply punctuated moves, there’s an internal, psychological vocabulary of enormous potential, one that at its most powerful can blend ideas with very strong emotional reactions, and make you feel them.
— Minneapolis Star Tribune, 5 December 1988
Great mime is a rarity, but Thomas Leabhart gave us exactly that. Best of all, this was mime on the cutting edge of invention, far from Marceau’s shadow.
— Los Angeles Times, 3 January 1986
Every once in a while a performance comes along that makes you realize how hungry you are for spiritual sustenance–the artistic wafer that empowers you to lift out of yourself, go far enough away so you can look back and get some perspective. Leabhart’s new piece…is full of the tough stuff of consumerism and consumption…the image bums in the retinas of our eyes long, long after it is done.
— LA. Herald Examiner, 19 January 1987
Everything in the work is concrete, suffused with irony and sadness (aided powerfully by Leabhart’s lightly mournful voice). In its complex array of responses to a world of absurd pressures and ecological stresses, the new piece surpasses even his excellent and similarly themed piece which begins the program.
— Los Angeles Times, 23 January 1987
Leabhart is a pure movement artist; he illuminated what it means to concentrate one’s whole life focus on movement. He never invents a gesture without due cause–he is a most economical and pure mover.
— L.A. Herald Examiner, 27 December 1985
Leabhart’s solo work, which always moves and lifts me…is a delicate combination of poetic texts flavored with autobiography and ecological concerns, and of energetic and precise movement which has an almost anachronistic modernity. Leabhart composes corporeal images which are like ideograms, those Chinese characters inspired by the thing named. Very rich, of very high quality, and modest at the same time.
— La Presse (Montreal), 28 May 1986
The realization of unexpected links between Leabhart and Lecoq’s teachings was one of those moments of synthesis one hopes for from festivals…other master classes were fun to watch even though none had the organizational coherence or substance of Leabhart’s.
— Philadelphia Inquirer, 6 July 1986
Leabhart gave a very interesting lecture on Jacques Copeau and the lines of influence which have led to different forms of contemporary mime. He is one of the rare theoreticians who has a comprehensive overview of the subject.
— La Presse (Montreal), 20 July 1986
Leabhart’s wise and witty solo made hard to “get” material accessible. Movement sequences, with stunning internal logic, were studded with lunges, flung arms and jiggles punctuated by autobiographical revelations…tender and powerful.
— Ballet News, September 1984
He is fond of rhythms which jolt, which break apart. The being of Thomas Leabhart fills every cubic inch of his body, molds his flesh, carries him away into attitudes and sequences of expressive movement which are very constructed, very clean, and at the same time, emotionally charged. The obedience of a body motivated from within is beautiful to see, the subjection of inward rhythms which ask to be made manifest.
— Reflex (Montreal), Summer 1985
Using the body’s entire range of movement and capacity for expression, he reconnected his audience with memory and human fallibility. And he did so with wit, openness, and a lack of precious, illusionary tricks. His deceptively simple, halting movements became more complex with each onset of information, expressing shades of wonder, irony, and anguish.
— St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch, 8 December 1988
Leabhart is a marvelous storyteller, both in words and in movement. His anecdotes are irresistible, and his muscular, compact body is wonderfully articulate, able to combine gesture, mime and lyrical dancing into fascinating performance.
— Los Angeles Daily News, 8 January 1989
A man, short in stature, alone on the stage with a chair…that is all. He immediately takes charge, holds on; the attention of the audience was such that it would have been possible to hear the proverbial pin drop.
— Vasterbottens Folkblad (Umea, Sweden) 20 May 1995
His latest work, “A Simple Thing,” [is] a beautiful, lyrical, muscular piece, visually stunning and intellectually stimulating.
— Total Theatre (London), Autumn 1995
The actor creates intensive theatre built on movement, unusual balance, and pulsating energy– concentration and relaxation, energy flowing in and out. Gestures, in his work, are not “acting with hands” but the extension of what is born within. His words are not recited; they are a stream which inspires and energizes the actor, who is not telling a tale, but creating, using the language of movement, a poem based on metaphor and emotion. Despite essential technical differences Leabhart’s actions resembled Ryszard Cieslak’s exercises. I found the analogies in integrity–the truth of the body and the truth of sweat.
— Gazeta Robotnicza (Wroclaw, Poland) May 1996