25
Sep
14

Scotch and Soda

brisbanefestival2014

SCOTCH+AND+SODA_22_by+Mik+la+Vage..jpg

 

Scotch and Soda

Brisbane Festival & Judith Wright Centre

Judith Wright Centre

September 23 -27 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

Well, this is a bit of fun! A hit at Woodford Folk Festival last year and at Sydney Festival earlier this year, Scotch and Soda (not the fashion label) is a collaborative effort by Company 2 and the Crusty Suitcase Band, with support for the Brisbane Festival season from the Judith Wright Centre’s Fresh Ground program. I didn’t see Company 2’s Cantina during Brisbane Festival last year but I love, love, loved She Would Walk the Sky, commissioned for WTF 2014. Chelsea McGuffin, director and performer, in her only Director’s Note, simply invites us in to join the company for some fun, so if you read the program notes (and you know I do), we are ready! Bring it on!

 

We walk into what’s billed as a “speakeasy” but to me, having only ever experienced the speakeasyness of Motherboard’s Underground, this gorgeous, vintage-ish, circus-ish backstage-ish space (try saying it ten times fast!) feels like any venue at Woodford Folk Festival, which is great; I miss it every year until it comes around again (and it’s coming around again! Hooray!). I stop and breathe in, expecting to get a whiff of incense. Nope. Ah well, nevertheless it’s a wonderful sensory experience, the carnival space jumping with the same feel-good vibes and excitement you get at Woodford when walking through the site late at night, or when a headline act doesn’t come on for another hour and you’re already set up with friends, beers and a selection of international cuisine in paper tubs. Of course you ate the Byron Bay Organic Doughnuts while you were waiting for the Langos… #truestory #notproudofit #dessertfirst

 

This show is one big late-night-all-night party.

 

Every night during a festival anywhere, and particularly at Woodfordia during the folk festival, you’ll hear similar riotous fun. In fact, we did! Musicians become acrobats and the acrobats are musicians too. Here, it’s the ridiculously talented percussionist, Ben Walsh, who leads a merry band – bohemian looking Beverly Hillbillies meets Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. (You sang that, didn’t you? I always do too). These guys are all too talented to care much about cleanliness or matching pants (or reliable stayupable pants). At least, that’s the gimmick.

 

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The show is a succession of daring and amusing shenanigans, eliciting gasps and guffaws from the audience. Not your usual festival crowd, in fact, a distinctly non-theatrical crowd, rather like we saw walk in off the street to see our 2008 production of Shout! Wearing jeans and t-shirts, most of them thought they were coming in to see a movie! But is this the new circus crowd I see before me? I hope so! Circus and good gangster dub afro gypsy swing is for everyone!

 

We ooh and ahh, admiring the classic circus acts, including balancing, tumbling, cycling and flying. Transitions involve the necessary set ups, Mozes on home made clodhopper roller skates, and a couple of card games. One such card game evolves swiftly into a mini brawl, which becomes an entertaining, toe-tapping percussion session utilising the various boxes and suitcases also used in a tabletop construction for a balancing act, and a strange and probably unnecessary clarinet solo. A clowning routine towards the end of the show, thinly veiled behind cheeky characters and a loose love triangle becomes an aggressive game of catch. Um. Yes. It’s McGuffin the boys are throwing and catching. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s actually a little unsettling and would have made a more interesting and exciting finale than the jumps and board tricks, which, to be fair, may have looked more impressive from the floor.

 

Hmmm… A note to producers and venues: QPAC this does not apply to you, having always designated appropriate seating to your reviewers, thanks. Everybody else, consider where you seat your reviewers. Especially for “General Seating” ticketed shows. Just saying.

 

The only woman in the company, McGuffin stands out; her strength is mighty and her smile is wicked sweet, like Little Red with a fake ID in her pocket and an extra bottle of whiskey in her basket. (We know that whiskey’s not for Granny). If every performer invested half as much character and sass as McGuffin and Mozes the Scotch and Soda stakes would be raised through the roof. The strength and control in the trapeze acts Mozes performs makes him the other standout. His comedy is in turns tongue-in-cheek and slightly lewd…I love it! He’s the epitome of the bizarre, beguiling circus performer. Did you know he didn’t even start any circus training until turning 25?!

 

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Sometimes a smile is just not enough to sell such daring feats, many of which are not new, but need to appear so, or at least appear more daring than we remember them to be. At least the pace is quick, the acts are neat and the live band is fabulous. Wait. What is with the long, quiet lead-in to the show? (And does Walsh’s drunk entrance really work?). Why does the band not play a set as we enter the space and take our seats? Why do they not play us out? We would happily have heard much more from them, and for my hot date, a friend of Woodfordia and the Festival of Small Halls, the Crusty Suitcase Band was the absolute highlight of the evening. Clearly, in that camp, there’s no man crush on Mozes.

 

Despite its tame tone and perhaps because of its sweetness masquerading as a-little-bit-naughty nature, Scotch and Soda is the most fun at the circus you’ll have this festival. It’s a show I would expect to see in any city in any country in the world, or – note for Sam – at my next birthday party. Thanks, honey! And if you ever catch Company 2 and the Crusty Suitcase Band as separate entities, I ‘reckon you’re in for another couple of rollicking good nights. In the meantime, get to the bar before the show and not during (#youidiotstimpy #sitdowninfront #itsa70minuteshow #youcanwait), and enjoy some Scotch and Soda!

 

 

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