Review – Scotch and Soda
If you said to me: ‘hey, come see this show: it’s a vaguely colonial Australia/depression era themed physical theatre thing, with like jazz music and stuff’ I’d probably make a face that involved raising one eyebrow and looking generally unconvinced: ‘Really?’ then, I’d remember that it’s the Fringe and I’ll go to pretty much anything and arrive at a tepid: ‘Okay. Sure, why not?’ I’d go along with you to Scotch and Soda and as soon as I walked into the Aurora Spiegeltent my trepidation would be replaced with uncontainable excitement.
The band played a lively overture, the cast was bedecked in tatty colonial era clothing, at differing levels of disrepair, and made up to look like they’ve been hard at work: sweating, slogging and drinking. They tussled with each other over bottles and cried out nonsensically from the crowd before coming together to provide an outstanding evening of entertainment.
I have never before seen a physical theatre show tell such a thematically coherent set of stories with movement and music. With essentially no dialogue, Scotch and Soda explored colonial-style vignettes of love, loss, madness, isolation, displacement and the tribulations of forging your place in society.
Joyously rolling through, folk, jazz, salsa, reggae, gypsy, polka and a massive melange of other genres, the live band kept the tempo high throughout the performance (with a couple of excellent melancholic counterpoints). Musically, they were nigh flawless but the most impressive element of the band’s performance was their characterisation. The living, circular-breathing, troupe brought so much colour and character to the stage that there was simply never a dull moment.
The same can be said of the acrobats, who performed their myriad of impressive physical feats locked into strong individual characters with stories and personalities that unfolded throughout the evening. At this level it almost goes without saying that the physical feats were thoroughly impressive and wonderfully inventive.
As an ensemble the troupe was incredible, with focus flowing flawlessly from one set piece to the next. This was a complex show; quite often there was a great deal going on onstage at any given moment, but the performers perfectly pulled the audience’s attention to where it was meant to be.
The show was also full of inventive surprises: plastic bag solos, roller-clogs (clogger-skates?), fixie-stunts, a bass clarinet played as a didgeridoo, the best cimbalom solo you’re likely to see this year and a few things that I will not spoil the sheer magic of for you.
The behind the scenes efforts that went into the detailed costumes and props were outstandingly well measured and delivered, as well as being intelligently lit. Absolutely everything about this production comes across as well thought through and brilliantly executed.
I could probably keep raving about it (did I mention that it’s hilarious?), but I’m running out of superlatives here. For mine, so far, this is the show that will define the upper echelon of this year’s Fringe; miss it at your peril.