Scotch and Soda

Dec 12 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩    Deliciously disreputable

Spiegeltent: Fri 21 Nov – Sun 21 Dec

There’s a full-on skuzzy vibe to Scotch and Soda, this year’s music and circus act in the St Andrew Square Spiegeltent as part of Edinburgh’s Christmas.


This is barefoot acrobatics, honed for thrills over frills. There’s none of the sensual glamour associated with the European big top as the quartet of acrobats and members of the ever-present Crusty Suitcase Band saunter onto the Spiegeltent stage and gather round the rough-hewn kitchen table which will be the basis for much of what is to come.

As they move in, up close and personal on the tiny raised stage, no one is out of spitting distance of the front row. They duly whip into the act with all the hard graft, vulgarity and brawn of something you might find staged by opal prospectors in the Australian outback.


There is an equally home-made feel to much of Ben Walsh’s music. Notably as he stomps round the stage, scrunching plastic bags for the rhythm while the acrobats thump out a beat on the boxes which they will later use for feats of balancing.

But the music is much more than that, with a vaguely Germanic feel to the brass band when it gets going. Walsh is in clear command of the show: driving it on from his drum kit and eerily amplified battering devices, while around him there is the crazy, throbbing mash-up of saxophones, trombone and clarinet – with the oomph of tuba thrown in for good measure and, for when things get atmospheric, the thrum of double bass.


It is such an ability to structure a coherent programme which is somehow lacking in the surrounding acrobatic performances.

By relinquishing the glamour of the circus, by losing its spangly, unattainable other, the show makes the tricks and feats performed seem all the more attainable.

They arise smoothly from what is around, such when Chelsea McGuffin balances precariously across champaign bottles the troupe had previously been drinking from. But this, then, appears to be little more than a party trick, rather than something dangerous and technically skilled.


Daniel Catlow at the top of his game. Photo: Neil Hanna

And without that sense of danger, this needs more of a narrative to drive it.

Look closely and you will see just how precarious the performance is. McGuffin and the hilariously bearded Mozes work the trapeze without a net in positions which, should a mistake occur, could be fatal. Yet the real danger of the slip-hand catches, the twists and around-the-houses tricks are that they become mundane.

That said, some of the moves are pretty special. Such as when Mozes, alone on the trapeze, lifts himself up to the point where the bar is behind his neck, tips his head back over the bar – just – and lets go with his hands. There he is, suspended in mid-air from the nape of his neck.

But the point remains that, without this sense of an overriding drama, the tricks stand on their own dramatic impact.

Bike Jump. Photo: Neil Hanna

Bike Jump. Photo: Neil Hanna

Acrobats David Carberry and Daniel Catlow circle the tiny stage on a fixed-wheel bike, clambering over each other, swapping who is peddling and steering without ever stopping, and definitely in danger of spilling over into the audience. Yet the big moment is when one of the boys gets off and jumps over the onrushing bike and rider.

And the hit of the evening, amidst all the perfectly controlled teeterboard jumps, the human pyramid, the acrobatic flamenco and the high-tower balancing, occurs when the spotlights are all dimmed. Chelsea McGuffin disappears with a suitcase into a mosquito-net tent. Lit internally from the magically illuminating case, she takes from it… Well, it would be a real spoiler to reveal what.

Suffice to say, it is a moment of drama, of not knowing what is going to happen next.

Scotch and Soda has skill and attitude aplenty. It is great night out, if you pay close attention. But it could be so much better if the company created a more dramatic story line within which to reveal their abilities.

NB: There is a 20% discount on tickets for anyone who lives in an EH postcode.

Running time 1 hour (no interval)
The Paradiso Spiegeltent, St Andrew Square.
Friday 21 November – Sunday 21 December 2014 (not Mons, or Dec 16)
Daily: 7.30pm, Sats: 3.30pm.


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