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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Friday, December 12, 2014

Circus review: Scotch and Soda

Published in the Guardian
St Andrew Square, Edinburgh
Two stars

IT'S a formula with a proven track record. Last year's Limbo, the Australian centrepiece of Edinburgh's Christmas programme, which also enjoyed long runs in London, showed what could happen when you combined a crack team of musicians with a handful of skilled acrobats and framed them with a grungy cabaret aesthetic in the Paradiso Spiegeltent. 

Presented by the Underbelly and Company 2, Scotch and Soda ticks the same boxes, and has musicality enough to keep a festive audience diverted for 60 minutes, but it is no match for Limbo's sassiness, imagination and jeopardy.

The setting is an Austrian bar room where men in Tyrolean hats, braces and calf-length lederhosen play cards over a rough wooden table or knock the dust off ancient-looking suitcases. Ben Walsh's score for the Crusty Suitcase Band has an appropriately Germanic feel, expanding from a jaunty oompah two-step to old-time jazz and swing, with a brief diversion into a rumbling dub deconstruction to add an other-worldly touch to a solo trapeze routine.

Always on the move, the musicians give Scotch and Soda its character and shape, but they also make the circus tricks look like an afterthought. The show has its moments, such as the construction of an Empire State Building of packing cases or the long-bearded Mozes supporting his body by the nape of his neck, but they come in between a surfeit of routine tumbling, underwhelming handstands and sketches that come to nothing. Even the show's one novelty, an act involving three budgies hopping on and off a music stand, has an air of uncertainty.

That one is performed by co-director Chelsea McGuffin who is weirdly the show's only woman. I'd like to complain about the nine-to-one gender imbalance, but prefer to imagine the women have chosen wisely and somewhere a spirited all-female cast is performing a smarter, riskier, more awe-inspiring show.

© Mark Fisher 2014 
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