Pain and passion: Cantina
The London Wonderground on the South Bank is currently playing host to Cantina, an Australian circus production that is unique in its blend of theatre and physical performance with a lashings of pain. Actually, a lot of pain. Broken glass, high heels, broken limbs feature so prominently it could be billed as the Cirque De Sade if that wasn't already the name for a fetish night in Canada.
The production manages to take the circus act and make it new by becoming sexy, violent and painful. Is it real or is it escapism? It is hard to tell but it is awfully enjoyable and classy night out full of laughs and some genuine surprises that will have audiences gasping.
You won't feel alone gasping... The action takes place in the round so you can see other audience members. On press night I had the occasional yelps and surprised expressions of the lovely actress Olivia Hallinan in my field of vision. Of course the intimate surroundings of the Paradiso Spiegeltent gives an added intensity to the performances that range from traditional circus acts to dance, magic and movement.
You can smell the wood, feel the muscles flinch and see the beads of sweat as you're transported into another world... It's a dirty vaudeville kind of a world where faded glamour, torn hemlines and stained suits and threadbare underwear or even the occasional glimpse of full frontal nudity is the order of the day. The music is live and includes some fine ukulele and musical saw playing. Audiences will be on the edge of their seats watching these incredibly amazing performers as they move and contort their bodies into positions that people could not imagine were possible.
The show runs for an hour, but I think that is just the right balance of variety and intensity for one evening. And it also gives plenty of time to grab a glass of wine and a slice of pizza outside to contemplate it all after the show. Just don't attempt anything dangerous with bottles or broken glass... Leave it to the experts... Or the insanely acrobatic... It runs through to September 30.