Scotch & Soda (4 stars)

Australian circus brings roguish magic to Edinburgh’s Paradiso Spiegeltent

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Scotch & Soda

Sean Young

Edinburghers are spoiled for Spiegeltents and circus stunts during the summer, so it makes sense that Underbelly – along with Unique Events – have begun to expand this magic into a sort of winter Fringe, supplementing the markets and fairground rides with a programme of cabaret and music.

At the heart of this is circus show Scotch & Soda, a four-strong Australian ensemble tangled up with The Crusty Suitcase Band’s Balkan-vintage style swing tunes. There are no showy entrances here. The troupe mooches onto stage one by one, and gathers casually round the sturdy trestle table that forms their centrepiece. Stage furnishings are ramshackle and homely; sheepskin rugs, crates, empty champagne bottles that will later become an impromptu tightrope. Costumes are all plus fours, tattoos, mismatched military jackets, braces and brogues. There’s an unashamed hipster vibe in the air, not least when the pillarbox-red fixie bike is wheeled out for some multiple-rider derring-do.

There are also gorgeous touches of originality, hinting at Victoriana circus without the usual brassy nostalgic tropes. Chelsea McGuffin’s tiny gauze square tent with three tame slender birds flitting inside is an exquisite image, as is Daniel Catlow’s swivelling hand balance, reminiscent of an inverse ballerina in a music box. But along with a few of the other segments they don’t build much beyond the initial beautiful idea.

It is however a firm rule of Australian circus that gender counts for nothing, and there are some nice plays on this – McGuffin taking base in doubles trapeze, then getting her own back on the men flinging her about in a punchline bow. The Spiegeltent’s round three-sided stage isn’t ideal for evenly distributing the wow factor of the finale. But seat yourself in the right spot (directly forward of the entrance) and their carpet-catapult antics will flip you out.

Paradiso Spiegeltent, 0844 545 8252, until 21 Dec (not Mondays or 30 Nov), times and prices vary.

Scotch & Soda at Edinburgh's Christmas

Scotch and Soda

Circus, dance and foot-stomping sounds in this whisky-soaked extravaganza, featuring music from The Crusty Suitcase and some nifty moves from a selection of Australia's finest acrobats.

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