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Soap: Headlining at Underbelly Festival Southbank 2018 | Review

Underbelly Soap Circus Production
Underbelly Soap Circus Production

I recall reading a list of useful things that can be done with soap and water, aside from the obvious one that this production makes an entire show out of (and it’s a good show, as it happens). Soap can help detect gas leaks and bicycle wheel punctures (where soap bubbles show, that’s where the problem is). Using a bar of soap along a stuck zipper should provide enough lubrication to release it.

The same apparently works for loosening drawer doors that are stuck, or very stiff. It is even helpful when it comes to removing wallpaper. My personal favourite, though I seldom have both the time and the inclination to do it, is to cover glasses with soapy water and wipe clean, in order to prevent them from fogging up when coming indoors from cold and wet weather.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, none of those are spoilers for this show, called Soap, which also isn’t about that other sort of soap, defined in the Cambridge Dictionary as “a series of television or radio programmes about the lives and problems of a particular group of characters”. Instead, there are a few bathtubs (for some reason, it never occurred to me to count precisely how many) dotted around the stage. Oh, what fun there is to be had in the tub. Not just in the tub, but around the tub, on top of the tub – this is circus, after all. There’s also the added element of singing about the tub, a job delegated to Jennifer Lindshield, whose soprano voice is utterly delightful.

It proves to be, rather unexpectedly, one of the most amusing elements of a production that is very silly, and knows it is. Part of me wants to tear into it a little for being so over the top and borderline infantile. A rather larger part of me embraces the production for what it is – a pleasurable and amusing performance. Yes, it plays to the gallery, but that works very well in a show that may not feature anything particularly ground-breaking – especially for those who frequently see circus performances – but whose key strength is rather in making proceedings compelling and watchable.

At more than one point the singing takes on the form of modified lyrics to well-known pieces of classical music, as well as more contemporary tunes: my knowledge of chart music is somewhere between mediocre and dismal, but even I recognised the strains of ‘Crazy’, made famous by Gnarls Barkley. You’ll have seen, for example, someone juggling balls before. Two, then three, then four, and so on: here, Adem Endris Yeman manages eventually manages an impressive eight. But there’s a style, an almost flamboyant level of confidence, a stage presence that makes the difference between being a bit nonplussed and being riveted.

There’s a curtain of rain, which falls more than once, and no umbrellas are provided (seriously, sit in the front row at your own risk). Looking at the production photos in the show’s programme, one might be forgiven for thinking there might be some nudity. Uh-uh. Things are kept clean in more ways than one here, and a note in the programme makes clear that the show “is suitable for a general audience including families with children”.

Still, that doesn’t stop three of the lads in the company from doing a routine best described as The Three-Quarters Monty (which is, for some, about as good as The Non-Monty), and a scene in which both feet of the same performer are personified as a dating couple. An arm is finally personified as a crying infant – you can work out what went on in between. Acrobats, on the other hand, demonstrate extraordinary skills and amazing flexibility. There really is something for everyone in a gloriously enjoyable performance.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Water, water everywhere as the slick, wet, headliner German Circus SOAP, splashes into The Spiegeltent at Underbelly Festival Southbank from Thursday 3 May – Saturday 16 June 2018.

Hot, wet, funny and very sexy, SOAP is a breath-taking fusion of world-class acrobatics and water – bath time will never be the same again! For the first time ever SOAP is performing in the round, to create a splash-filled and riotously fun new spectacular; as the seriously crazy and multi-talented international cast splish-splash through aerial, trapeze, juggling, mop ballets and a spectacular rainy finale – in, on, above and around bathtubs filled with….water! Plus SOAP‘s silly slippery comedy, including their cheeky female clown.

SOAP’s live music and electric soundtrack includes: The Doors, Sia, Tool, Gnarls Barkley, Goldfrapp, Beethoven, Mozart and The Beatles – and singing live, is the Soap Opera Diva (Jennifer Lindshield – Carnegie Hall, NYC) – taking singing in the bath to a whole new level! As bodies get wet and physical the frothy clean fun begins! (Suitable for all ages.)

Jubilee Gardens, off Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX


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