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The Spiegeltent, Underbelly Festival, London

SOAP
4.0Reviewer's Rating

This has been the most jam-packed hour and ten minutes in your reviewer’s career. As he walked across the footbridge over the Thames to the Southbank Centre, the sky was still bright and the air was fresh, but some light relief was badly needed from the interminable Brexit saga. As your reviewer entered the London Wonderground and skirted past the throngs of people, he came upon an archway with Paradiso emblazoned upon it. This looks better than Purgatorio, he thought to himself. It was actually the entrance to the Spiegeltent – a tent with mirrors, a very large tent, with a rather small circular stage in the middle, and rows of seats all around. What was in store? Would it be the light relief from all the babble about a customs union, a customs partnership, and a frictionless border that your reviewer craved?

What followed certainly took his mind off all of that. ‘Soap’ is a circus troupe originating in Germany but with an international cast, from Spain, Russia, Ethiopia, Canada and the USA as well as Germany. But wait till you see what they do. One is a juggler, one is a contortionist, one does handstands, one flies on the trapeze, one pulls himself up by his straps, and one is an antipode. No, she is not from Australia. It means her feet are opposite each other. You’ll see what I mean when you go there.

You will also be amazed at the displays of strength, agility, timing and balance, carried off with panache and sheer bravery. One wonders how the small round stage can contain such exuberance without spilling over into the audience. Indeed, it does sometimes, with audience participation willing or not. But it is not just exuberance that spills over. A lot of water spills over too, for much of the stage is occupied by bathtubs, and they are not empty. It is literally good clean fun as the cast do things in the bath that you wouldn’t think possible!

Underbelly Soap Circus

There is no need to list the feats of acrobatics, juggling, mayhem and even mopping that follow each other relentlessly, driven along by a pulsating score from an excellent soundtrack, ranging from the Beatles to Beethoven, with live music as well. This included high-octane soprano singing from a genuine “soap opera diva”. And the whole thing is kept together by a comedienne who links the various virtuoso displays with great zest. My companion was enthralled, saying this was the best circus performance she had ever seen. And after an adrenaline-filled seventy minutes, your reviewer was not going to argue with her.

About The Author

Trustee & Reviewer (UK)

Richard McKee is a lawyer, and used to be a judge, but despite that (or because of that) he likes comedy, cabaret and pantomime.  These are the things that he reviews for Plays to See, for which – in view of his great age – he is also a trustee.  He leaves the serious stuff to the young!  But seriously, though, he thinks it is a great idea for young reviewers to hone their critical faculties and communication skills by writing for Plays to See, and feels privileged to be involved in its current expansion.

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