Performers: Company 2 and The Crusty Suitcase Band
Reviewer: Scott Matthewman
In recent years the Spiegeltent at London Wonderground has become a welcome regular summer fixture on the South Bank. While it may be temporarily overshadowed by the Udderbelly’s Big Purple Cow next door before that venue relocates to Edinburgh, one area where it can dominate is in its array of cabaret and circus performers, of which Australian comedic acrobatic show Scotch &Soda is the latest and most welcome.
Clothed – often barely – in ragged, dirty Victoriana, the aesthetic from the offset is shabby chic, with the emphasis very much not on the chic. One is very much transported to a world where the acrobats of troupe Company 2 and the musicians of The Crusty Suitcase Band have been travelling the dustbowls of the outback, performing tricks to earn a crust.
And what tricks they are. Company 2’s acrobats are led by company founders David Carberry and Chelsea Macguffin, combining balancing and trapeze work with tightly choreographed dances and mock fight sequences. Carberry forms a tight-knit double act with Skip Walker Milne, characterising their relationship as if they are a pair of bickering siblings. Whether it is competing with each other to perform handstands on ever taller stacks of boxes, or joining forces for some gravity-defying set pieces (at one point, Milne is atop a 15 foot high pole which is itself balanced on Carberry’s shoulder) the pair rarely falter in their obvious trust, respect and friendly rivalry.
Macguffin’s expertise on the trapeze is matched by some superlative rope work from Kate Muntz, and the two of them are often teamed up with the most eccentric troupe member. Coming across as a wild man of the outback, when the bearded Mozes is not suspended from the trapeze in a variety of seemingly impossible poses, he is clomping around the stage in clogs, in taped-up underwear and, more than once, in nothing at all.
Adding to the craziness and sense of fun are the live jazz stylings of The Crusty Suitcase Band, whose repertoire tumbles through European, oriental and every other style of music in between. Led by percussionist Ben Walsh, their freneticism and enthusiasm match those of the acrobatic performers to provide an evening of athleticism and humour that is a welcome addition to the South Bank’s summer schedule.