At its highest, Sans Mots is a concentrated concerto of sound and mime. Matteo Cionini plays a maverick conductor, alternatively dashing and bored. One moment he’s driving the orchestra through red lights, tossing his curly locks, or pouncing as though at the Olympics fencing final. Then his attention wanders, and he starts cleaning his suit or trying to get the soundtrack back from a broken record.
This is an accomplished performance and he has the audience onside. It’s hard not to share the boyish exuberance for things that go crash, bang, wallop. You glimpse the underside as some of these are war-like explosions, distant machine-gun fire, but most of the show stays firmly comedic.
A running joke is that words are forbidden. Occasionally, he breaks into speech, to the annoyance of the recorded gobbledegook typical of traditional mime. This is a nice twist, showing the creative tension in the genre, while remaining on the lighthearted side.
Another motif is the aircraft take-off and landing that frame the show. It’s simple and effective as he checks for fastened seatbelts and queasy tummies at the start, or shows us how to mime a landing (probably not a crash landing) at the end. Both youthful and assured, he also takes a coachful of latecomers in his stride.
Sans Mots is engaging, funny but not necessarily ground-breaking. The standard is high and the musical interludes sometimes particularly successful, but it sags slightly in longer sequences about computing and commuting set to a synthesised background.
But it’s certainly not to be sneezed at. The red nose, invisible wall or Hamlet skull in the props box may not be new, but they are wheeled out with skill. Some ingenious lateral thinking lies behind visual jokes like making the baton into the arm of the record player. And you can enjoy the Italian accent as he asks ‘Do you speak English?’, only to bat back with another question: ‘Who cares?’