SAMMY DINNEEN performs as a handbalancer among the six-strong company for Throwback – the latest show from circus company Silver Lining, which returns to Jacksons Lane (following a run at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe Festival) for the London International Mime Festival. The show runs from the 1st to the 4th February – tickets and further information can be found here. Theatre Bubble took the opportunity to quiz one of the rising stars of circus about the form’s future and the inspiration behind the show.
Theatre Bubble: How did you become a part of Silver Lining?
Sammy Dinneen: Silver Lining is a company run by Tom Ball and Niamh O’Reilly. Fundamentally, everyone involved in Throwback are good friends who had always wanted to work together. So when Tom and Niamh decided to make a show about friendship and memories it seemed only natural that we’d all come together and have some fun creating an infectious feel-good show.
TB: What is your background as a circus artist?
SD: I trained in dance in Edinburgh and while living there, I saw a few circus shows at the Edinburgh Fringe. I loved what the artists did and began to train with them during the summer. This was the start of my journey and I never really looked back. I went on to attend The National Centre for Circus Arts which is the UK’s national circus school. I studied on their degree programme for 3 years, specialising in handstands but also achieving a high level in acrobatics and other circus disciplines. I wanted to then take my training to the next level and travelled to the Ukraine where I worked with some of the top handbalancers in the world. My career has taken me all over the world and I’ve performed in shows including Batman Live: The World Tour, Traces by 7 fingers and Pippin: US Tou. As well as performing in shows like these, I perform my own solo acts and teach so it’s a busy but amazing schedule.
TB: Is Silver Lining’s work created primarily for theatres? If so, why?
SD: I don’t think so – Throwback is a show that could work in a variety of settings and is really adaptable. While the acts are set, we can change bits of the show to fit the venue we’re in and we are all used to working and learning fast to make sure we know the space.
TB: Does the future of circus lie in theatres rather than touring Big Tops?
SD: I really think this depends on the piece in question. I don’t like to think that a work can only be performed in one type of venue. For example, Throwback was first performed at the Edinburgh Fringe in a spiegeltent, which is in the round. Now we’re at Jackson’s Lane where the audience are end-on, so it’s a very different feel. But both work well! With my solo career, I’ve performed in huge arenas, theatres, big tops, tiny cabaret venues, pubs, all sorts. Of course, depending on the act in question you need certain technical elements. As a handbalancer I need height as otherwise my feet hit the ceiling which isn’t a good look! But, I think the art of circus can adapt well to various settings and that’s what’s exciting.
TB: What was the inspiration behind Throwback?
SD: Throwback is all about friendship and memory – we tell honest stories about our own lives infused with amazing circus and fun! Some of the stories are sad, some happy, some funny – but all of them reveal a little bit of our personalities. At the start of the show, there’s a line-up where you meet all of us and by the end of the show you’ve really got to know us. I think everyone can’t help but sing along with the final scene so I hope people get nostalgic with us and have a good time!
TB: How important are themes in creating your work?
SD: Themes are really important – when I’m creating a solo work I always have a story in my mind. You’ve got to start somewhere and having a story or a theme can really help as I develop a piece. My acts are all quite varied – some are very technical, some more sensual and some follow a definite narrative. For example, I have a piece about the story of Icarus and I think people really enjoy being able to understand my thought processes as I perform. I think the themes of nostalgia and friendship are really apparent in Throwback which means people can relax and enjoy themselves rather than trying to analyse the content too much.
TB: Do you see Silver Lining ever creating works with a linear narrative?
SD: I think the cross-over between circus and theatre is becoming ever closer. A lot of circus does now have a linear narrative which opens it up to different audiences. Who knows what will happen in the future. I know that Silver Lining have big ideas so I hope that the industry embraces this really exciting company!