Review from… Shoreditch Town Hall, London International Mime Festival; 27th January 2018
A low coffee table sits before us, its woodgrain perpendicular to that of the boarded stage, laid with a glass mug diagonally sandwiched between an upright sugar cuboid in one corner and a bowl of fluffy pink and white marshmallows in the other. Neat doormats mark two routes onto the stage, and three rows of raked wooden benches form an arc in front for us to take our seats.
If the description feels overly precise, that is exactly how fastidious host Etienne Manceau would have it. His tiny world is ordered to the point of eccentricity, and Sacékripa‘s wordless one-man show creates a rhythm in its audience as much as in the small household objects he dextrously manipulates: intent, rapt silences, punctuated by bursts of delighted laughter every time we work out the purpose behind his unusual sequences of activity.
He is making a cup of tea, you see. But the classic juggling artistry first made famous by Paul Cinquevalli has been extended in Vu from a single dynamic routine to a full length character portrait, engaging us with the bizarre methods that form part of Manceau’s apparent daily ritual as he arrives home from the office to take his regular tea break in the comfort of his own odd home. Not forgetting the large dose of deadpan clowning thrown in for the joy of it.
Each performance relies on the interactions of man and moment to the degree that Manceau will not have a recording made. ‘Each one is a unique event in the here and now’, his programme note explains, ‘for both the audience and myself.’ It’s clear from the evolving interactions between – on this occasion – a helpful man and an eager child in the audience, that no two shows can be alike, despite the rigorous attention to detail the tea ritual entails. We love Manceau’s jobsworth rigidity that denies the child a marshmallow treat again and again whilst his full grown assistant earns several.
By the end of the 45 minute show – small and perfectly formed – we know how this bespectacled, eyebrow-raising individual turns a page; how he stirs his brew; how he toasts his marshmallows… none of these are by the methods you would expect, and all generate increasing laughs. Often incredulous ones. I’m not the only one squealing when a sharpened cleaver appears among the other homely tools.
A twitching eye and bicep mark distress, yet a beaming smile appears on occasion of smug success. Taking his bows to enthusiastic applause, Manceau retains his idiosyncratic charm as we’re invited to sign his golden notebook. As long as we don’t go over the margins.