Scotch & Soda at London Wonderground: Kooky Acrobats & Beatnik Jazz

We head to the Southank to review Scotch and Soda at London Wonderground… 

If you picked up TimeOut London this week, you may have had a nosey at the little contribution I made to their feature on free things to do in London.

I talked about The Festival of Love on Southbank, one of my favourite things about summer. Aside from pop up street food, exhibitions in the Southbank Centre and dance classes in and around the Royal Festival Hall – oh and a bit of an urban ‘beach’ by the river – there’s just a really liberating summer vibe.

Last week I ventured down to catch a showing of Scotch & Soda in the spectacular Spiegeltent that forms part of this summer’s London Wonderground.

Not to be confused with the Dutch clothing brand, this mixology of circus and jazz is the brainchild of David Carberry and Chelsea McGuffin (what an awesome name, right?) It’s performed by a team of acrobats known as Company 2 who are accompanied quite cleverly by the Crusty Suitcase Band – a posse of jazz musicians. And it’s all part of the Udderbelly Festival.

I have to say, the well-known upsidedown cow and the whole cabaret / circus / 20s vibe, all takes me back to being at the Edinburgh Fringe when I was at university (which I love).

London Wonderground

We were a little bit late to arrive at Scotch & Soda, so dashed past the spiegeltent drinkers outside and were ushered to one of the wooden booths that looked out to the stage.

After seeing La Soirée in December – a side-splitting, strictly-adult-only mix of acrobats, cabaret and comedy – my expectations were high.

Scotch and Soda was nowhere near as funny. But aside from a regular chuckle and then a giggle at two unexpected moments of ‘flashing’ (*blush*) I don’t think it was meant to be. It was more about the creativity of the instrumentalists, the acrobatic scenes that illustrate kooky stories and the all-round Beatnik vibe. And aside from the pillar that was frustratingly in front of our table (we’d have probably had better seats had we not been late!) I was fully gripped from the outset.

Like with many successful circus-inspired shows, this one builds suspense. The dashing David Carberry ‘fools’ around, pedalling a bike precariously around the tiny circular stage. The audience precedes to watch in anticipation as he pedals in various different positions. Then things get more daring as the daredevil Chelsea McGuffin and eye poppingly strong Kate Muntz conduct a number of acrobatic moments. The pinnacle moment is when all three of them are riding this bike – one person standing/sitting on the shoulders of the next. And yes, Caberry is still pedalling in a circle, inches from the spectators’ noses.

Scotch and Soda

© Sean Young Photography

Between some inventive brass, percussion and string musical interludes (one musician ‘turns’ a squash racket into an electric violin) the acrobatic skills take on an even more vertiginous nature.

Being very fearful of heights, the trapeze always gets me on the edge of my seat. And from hanging upside-down by your toes; to a corde lisse act that had Kate Muntz spinning around the stage by a rope, the Scotch and Soda gang know how to make you sweat.

Then we had a clever ‘fight’ scene between Carberry and McGuffin. And when I thought the suspense couldn’t get any higher, we watched a phenomenal scene as Carberry balanced a huge pole on his shoulders as nimble Skip Walker Milne climbed up it. His act that involved doing a head stand on a tower of suitcases and boxes was equally amazing. (FYI – the tower was FAR taller than in this picture)

Scotch and Soda

© Neil Hanna Photography

The music at Scotch & Soda mustn’t be forgotten and The Crusty Suitcase Band are worth the tickets alone. They’re creative, characterful and have a whimsical misfit charm.

It was 70 minutes of mesmerising physical feats, theatrical skill and captivating musical arrangements.

The Southbank is one of my favourite places during the summer. And after that performance, Scotch and Soda only confirm when everyone should come here.

Until next time x

Scotch and Soda

© Sean Young Photography

Thank you to Scotch & Soda for hosting Oh So London during their show as part of this review. All views are my own. Tickets start from £27 + £1 booking fee. For more information visit The London Wonderground website. Scotch & Soda leaves The Southbank on 2 August.

@LdnWonderground

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