Adelaide Fringe 2012
A fun, flirty and physical performance that has the audience enthralled, as gymnastics, acrobatics and circus skills combine in spectacular fashion.
It was a steamy packed house that gathered for the performance of SOAP, in the huge Vagabond tent in the Garden of Unearthly Delights, to check out what is fast becoming one of the must-see acts of the Festival.
SOAP combines operatic singing, clowning, acrobatics and dancing with a whole lot of wet fun. Structurally, the performance is segmented into short dramatic episodes that take the audience on a journey, ranging from the comedic to the compelling. This is a minimal dialogue production that instead relies on the physicality of the performers, the fantastic music, and jaw-dropping acrobatic feats. The result is an engaging, entertaining and, at times, astounding experience.
Six bathtubs sat staggered across different elevations of the stage, ranging from period claw foots to modern monstrosities; these tubs were a focal point of the performance, almost becoming performers in themselves. Minor set adjustments were made throughout the show, as the bathtubs were slid across stage, filled with water, and tipped upside down to create a solid surface. The changing moods of the production were well signalled by the lighting, with dramatic spotlights, and huge lifts and falls in brightness.
The music in the show was a highlight. From the opening notes of ‘Splish, splash’ it weaved in and around the performances, cueing emotional responses every step of the way. Tracks ranged from aquatic versions of classical masterpieces to The Doors and Tool, causing me to wish that someone had produced ‘SOAP: the soundtrack’.
An impressive aspect of the production was the effective use of humour and slapstick comedy. Even in the most powerful moments, there were sprinkles of laughter, which reminded the audience that, above all, this is about fun! In this respect, the show’s greatest asset is the button-cute clown, performed by Marie-Andree Lemaire. From her first entrance, clad in gumboots and goggles, Lemaire has the audience eating out her hand, creating our first real sense of connection with the cast. This is important; the acrobatically-induced oooohs and aaaahs from the audience are all well and good, but without our clown the show would have lacked its wonderful warmth.
The physical feats are amazing—from dance trapeze to foot juggling, this circus has the lot. Patricia Holtzmann, and her stunning voice, regally presided over proceedings while Fernando Dudka literally took the audience’s breath away with his incredible flexibility and balance. Ludmila Nikolaeva, Viktoria Grimmy and Michael Lanphear were mesmerising to Sia’s beautiful ‘Breathe Me’, and Adem Endris introduced us to the fun of bathtub juggling. Francois Gravel was simply sensational on the dance trapeze, in a spectacular finale that had the audience on the edge of their seats as he plunged headfirst towards the ground.
It’s not like this is a new concept. We’ve certainly seen similar productions that give a whole new level of theatre to the word ‘circus’, however that’s not a reason to deny this show any of its greatness. SOAP is a fantastic journey for the audience and there is such a combination of skills from the performers that there seems to be something here for everyone. Detractors may call it a second-rate Cirque du Soleil, but this is a world-class production, and it is perfectly sized and suited to a festival like the Adelaide Fringe. As word-of-mouth whips up the hype around this one, be sure to get your tickets quickly—this show will sell out before you know it. Just be prepared to get a little wet!