Sinué is a coming-of-age tale by French author Anne Duchamp and is brought to Brighton Festival by Belgian company Circus Feria Musica. The piece follows Jules, a boy represented by four different performers, as he takes his first steps into adulthood. A company of five performers drive the piece forward using elements of parkour, Chinese pole, acrobatics, aerial circus and juggling. Two musicians, onstage throughout, provide a musical backdrop for the performance. Both the musicians and the circus performers are interesting to watch; part of the musical set-up looks like a scientist’s laboratory and the soundscape is as fantastical and varied as the circus.
The company performs with a great sense of musicality, grace and humour, and is a pleasure to watch. The opening sequences of parkour and Chinese pole manage to inspire whoops, laughs, oohs and aahs from the audience in equal measure. Some of the tricks performed are spectacular; Chinese pole drops from ceiling to floor, leaps between pieces of equipment from three metres up and death defying balances. In one sequence, one performer bounces up and down close to the edge of a platform three metres in the air before diving into the arms of his colleagues on the ground. A highlight for me was the inventive use of the set, a cylindrical metal climbing frame, surrounded by ropes, platforms and poles. Ropes are hung both horizontally and vertically at different points in the piece. The performers slide, balance and twist around the ropes, which interchange between tightwires, rope swings and aerial circus equipment before our eyes. The piece de resistance is when the entire metal frame is lifted, tipped horizontally and then swung back and forth across the stage.
For all its majestic set pieces, Sinué did not quite live up to expectations. I found it difficult to pick out a narrative. There were fantastical and inventive vignettes but the piece felt like several unrelated scenes as opposed to a story about a man on the brink of adulthood. The performers were all very skilled and the circus elements blended well with moments of contemporary dance, mime and clowning but the aspect of one character being represented by four different performers was lost. There were also moments where performers moving set in one part of the stage drew focus from performances happening elsewhere.
Nevertheless, Sinué is an enjoyable show to watch and got a great response, with many gasps and giggles throughout the show, and rapturous applause at the end. It is also a show that appeals to a wide audience; there were people of all ages from toddlers to pensioners in attendance. Sinue is a good all-rounder with breathtaking and quirky circus elements but somewhat lacking in story and character.
Sinué is playing at Brighton Dome until 22nd May. For more information see the Brighton Festival website.