Dextrous Circus Skills On The South Bank With Scotch & Soda

Franco Milazzo
By Franco Milazzo Last edited 40 months ago
Dextrous Circus Skills On The South Bank With Scotch & Soda ★★★☆☆ 3

ScotchSoda

Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆

Coming on like the plain stepchild of illustrious predecessors Limbo and Cantina, the London Wonderground’s latest headline circus show Scotch & Soda is a comparatively sober affair.

That's not to say this production from down under is flat or dull. Company 2’s acrobats provide enough thrills and spills to keep any big top fan entertained. The dexterity on display as one, then two, then three of the performers manoeuvre aboard a moving bicycle is a joy to watch and, for technical excellence, the pole work is as exhilarating as any we’ve seen. Furthermore, the adult drama of Cantina is blended with the live music of Limbo to produce an intriguing alchemy.

Two of the stars of the 2012 show Cantina have returned. Despite what her name suggests, Company 2’s co-director Chelsea McGuffin is anything but inconsequential to this production. As well as joining in with many of the set pieces, she performs her own quite bizarre solo routine. Featuring three birds in a pop-up aviary (and that’s not a phrase you hear every day), she attempts to get them to move around the limited space. Unfortunately, the budgies refuse to budge as requested leading to a frustrating few minutes all round.

The other star of Cantina is back and bolder than ever. No-one who saw that show could forget Mozes, the swarthy hunk who performed aerial and acrobatic wonders with and without a stitch of clothing. Showing that this ex-hairdresser has not lost his taste for nudity, he gets his schlong out early doors before arriving nude on stage atop a broomstick. Whether up in the air or at ground level, Mozes is a physical demagogue, aggressively capturing all the attention in the room with his unpredictable and jaw-dropping antics.

Like Limbo, which occupied the London Wonderground Spiegeltent in 2013 and 2014, there is live music to liven things up. Scotch & Soda aims for a grungy, end-of-pier ambience and the Crusty Suitcase Band play their part to perfection, churning out filthy beats and junkyard jazz redolent of cheap cigarettes and midnight sex.

As co-director of Scotch & Soda, McGuffin must take some responsibility for the lack of cohesiveness between the band and the acrobats. Sure, there is some interaction but otherwise there often seems to be two separate points of focus with the musicians continually playing while the circus antics go on. The programme describes each of the cast in terms of characters, alluding to the dramatic tension between them, but these elements are barely explored or enlarged upon. A dramaturg would be a wily addition to the production crew if Scotch & Soda want to make more of this aspect. Having said that, there is much to see and enjoy here, especially the more thrilling set pieces.

Scotch & Soda continues at London Wonderground on the South Bank until 2 August 2015. Tickets start from £27. Londonist attended on a complimentary press ticket.

For other big top options around London, check out the circus programme at Jacksons Lane, 7 Fingers’ Traces at Peacock Theatre or Beta Testing, Polymer or Bromance at Udderbelly, the London Wonderground Spiegeltent’s big purple neighbour.

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Last Updated 15 June 2015