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Review: Soap at The Underbelly Spiegeltent

Review: Soap at The Underbelly Spiegeltent

Circus performers: the closest you can get to magical super-humans for under £30...

Recently I watched a documentary about the Crossfit Olympics.

‘What has that got to do with anything, Fran?’ I hear you say. Well – the people who compete at these games are described as being as close to super-humans as it gets. And I would agree with that. Hot on their heels, however, are circus performers.

So were my first thoughts upon watching Soap at the Underbelly this week, anyway.  Goodness gracious - the bodies, the agility, the elegance… But before I get too carried away, I’ll pick my jaw up off the floor and actually give you some information you can use.

Soap is something of a heritage show, if such a thing exists. Its very first act was performed at the Royal Variety and was such a hit that the directors span it out into a full production, which opened in Berlin in 2007. Since then, it has toured the world, from Sweden to Singapore, the Netherlands to New Zealand.

CREDIT: Lutske Veenstra

Directed by Maximilian Rambaek and cabaret heavyweight, Marcus Pabst, the concept itself is fairly simple: “how do you play with water, its sensuality, and have fun doing it?” Cue a company of highly-trained circus performers, one opera singer with a sense of humour, and a shedload of bathtubs. Sound bonkers, perhaps, but it works.

I love circus, I really do. I love the power of it and the skill - and I love when I can sit back and watch something, which I know is nigh on impossible for your average human, be made to look effortless.  Soap was the perfect example of this. The cast were simply so accomplished.  Every single pose Anton Belyakov held during his hand-balancing routine was perfectly still and solid as a rock – no shaking arms, no readjustments, perfect alignment.  It was spellbinding.  Vanessa Alvarez’s foot juggling was sheer joy – to be able to watch a woman kick a guitar up and down in the air and have no niggle of fear that she might drop it… that is professionalism.

CREDIT: Richard Lakos

And that is what you get when you create a company of performers who are from circus dynasties (Alvarez represents the seventh generation of her circus family) or who have been training since they were children. So was the case with Moritz Haase, who started performing aged just 10 and whose dance trapeze piece was one of my favourites of the night.

The whole show was sexy, sophisticated and extremely good fun, striking the perfect balance between poetic and comedic. And there were moments of intense feeling too, which I felt were the closest thing to magical that I have experienced in a while. This was all supported and enhanced by the staging of the show, which was fantastic. I loved the music, I loved the lighting, I loved the set, and I love, love LOVED the “rain” – if I could contrive some way to have fake rain in my house, I would. (Though I suspect it would wreak havoc on my tiny London flat...)

CREDIT: Richard Lakos

A couple of the more dance-focused pieces could have been more ambitious, I felt – specifically the trio act – and I can’t say there was anything in the show which really shocked or surprised me, but over all I have nothing negative to say whatsoever.

Did it push artistic boundaries? I don’t know. Was it the most unique, thought-provoking circus show I’ve ever seen? Probably not. But, do you know what it was? 100% professional, high-quality entertainment.  Circus in its pure form, done beautifully, by almost-super-human talent.

Go get a ticket. Now. You’ve only got one weekend left!

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