Scotch & Soda leaves you in high spirits

Scotch & Soda feat. The Crusty Suitcase Band – Spiegeltent @ London Wonderground, until 02 August 2015 (tickets)

Three years after launching with their immediately identifiable brand of well-financed, 12a-rated, corporately-sponsored debauchery aimed squarely at a target market of well-heeled financiers from Clapham and people who consider reading 50 Shades of Grey on the bus the height of risqué behaviour, London Wonderground has begun to feel as much a Thames-side institution as the statue people who so bafflingly thrill tourists with the amazing ability to stand still.

Yet until now Civilian Theatre has never made the trip across the river to experience the famous Spiegeltent and its carnival of delights and vigilant readers may have noticed the faint whiff of cynicism rising from the above paragraph. I should make clear this is in no way is aimed at the performers – Scotch & Soda, or any of those taking part this summer. Having seen some of the acts perform elsewhere, the talent is not to be doubted.

Scotch and Soda. Credit Sean Young Photography (4)No, my main issue with the London Wonderground experience is struggling to avoid the chuckling charlies braying their stock portfolios at one another as they think nothing of throwing down another £7 on a glass of Pimms, or forking out £10 for a souvenir programme (7 pages of high gloss photos). This is not a show for those looking to manage their budgets. A family of four would be hard pressed to be spending less than £120 for a show that lasts 70 minutes (and that assumes calls for ice creams, cokes or glasses of wine are resisted).

All that said, Scotch & Soda is a highly entertaining show. The Australian troupe is a mixture of skilled circus performers and fantastically enjoyable horn and drum infused jazz. Their style is perhaps inspired by the idea of early 20th century touring circuses – a hipster meets hillbilly confection where moustaches meet muscles, where a jug-band meets a classically trained double-bassist.

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Watch a little video courtesy of our friends at Official Theatre


LDN Theatre Bloggers Unite – Together We Are Unstoppable

In the spirit of full disclosure, this post skirts very close to the edge of an advertorial. The good people at Civilian Theatre will always strive to review fairly whether the tickets are press freebies or bought out of our hard-earned cash. However the line does blur when it comes to what to write about events that have been set up by companies that clearly have a vested interested in bloggers talking about their products and are happy to liberally apply free wine and food. So read the following in whatever spirit you wish and just remember – like any theatre – these views are my own, and I encourage everyone else to form their own opinions about things by following the links and finding out more about them.

It is always slightly strange going to press nights, sitting in the dark for ninety minutes and then rushing off home to write up some thoughts before crashing into sleep, waking up to go to the job that actually provides the money for you to do all of those cool (read expensive) London-y things, and starting the cycle all over again.

So last night provided a rather fun change of pace as I was invited – as part of the #LDNTheatreBloggers community – to a little soiree organised by the Duracell-bunny made flesh, one-woman human dynamo, @rebeccafelgate, to meet, mingle, natter and mix with other members of the online theatre blogging world.

The lovely Rebecca has been grafting away trying to get us nameless, faceless people to be that little bit more sociable – so that when we see familiar faces out and about we might actually go and say hello. I know it all sounds terribly un-British but there you go.

The good people at Official Theatre ( or @theatreofficial) are the brains trust behind a lot of this loveliness. They have already done a fine job in hooking up bloggers with shows to review, and have crafted a nifty line in video reviews (see link below for a rather amazing Lord of the Dance video response).

Regular readers of this blog will probably notice there is something of a disconnect between what they offer and what we review. However if you do like West End shows then it is a pretty useful one-stop shop for getting the low-down on what’s on and buying tickets. Plus it turns out that not everyone wants to see miserabilist 3-hour plays performed in a mixture of mime, interpretative dance and Latvian folk song. Well who knew?

Also worthy of a mention is Seat Plan ( or @seat_plan) who are a service that I really don’t mind doing a little schilling for. Basically if you have ever sat in the gods then you will probably recognise the experience of wondering whether the cheaper (but still not that cheap) ticket price is really worth the two and a half hours you are going to spend with you knees forced up to your chin and half the stage obscured by the edge of the balcony. Basically it is a user-led seat review service. People can upload photos of the view from their seat and give it star ratings (because everyone loves turning things into 5 star metrics).

My only beef is really with the fact that a lot of the theatres I go to are not currently on the site. So a plea to the guys at Seat Plan – we don’t all go to the West End. Have words with the National, Donmar, Young Vic, Old Vic and Barbican. I want to tell you what they are like.

But anyways I must rush to get a train to Cardiff (the fun literally *not literally* never stops), so just a final mention that if you are here and you want to read other people’s reviews then check out #LDNTheatreBloggers and #Stagey on Twitter to find more like-minded people than you can shake a stick at.




An evening with…The Beatles

Let It Be – Garrick Theatre (and variously on tour) [Tickets]

Let it be…said that this reviewer does stray out of their comfort zone occasionally. Children murdered by the mother? Check. Libertarian ethics of avatar paedophilia? Check. An absurdist Bolivian redux of Hamlet? Check. An evening at the Garrick Theatre spent listening to faithful renditions of songs by the most influential band of all time? Well, there is a first time for everything.

beatMany people hate on jukebox musicals but this reviewer does have time for the concept; Buddy, Mamma Mia and Our House all prove that given care and attention, and a back catalogue that can sustain a two hour plundering, it doesn’t have to be an excruciatingly painful evening. Indeed in my opinion the general terribleness of We Will Rock You says more about the quality of Queen’s songbook than it does about the show itself – and the fact that listening to 120 minutes of overblown bombast is more than enough for most people.

Well, no-one is going to claim that The Beatles don’t have the quality to cover the running time of a tribute concert. Indeed quite a fun little game to play on the tube ride home is to come up with a playlist that is just as strong as the one they left in – Oh Darling, I Want You, Nowhere Man, You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away, She’s Leaving Home, Dear Prudence & Helter Skelter are just some I would have tried to slot in somewhere.

Perhaps it is already a well-known fact but Let It Be is not a musical in any meaningful sense of the word. This is a full blown ‘evening with The Beatles’ affair (except, rather excruciatingly and presumably for copyright reasons, they seem to be called ‘Let It Be’ which does dull some of the mystique).

There is no semblance of plot excepting an intermittent narrator guiding the audience through the years and ticking off all the big non-controversial Beatles milestones. Invading America? Yes. Bigger than Jesus? No. Hippies? Yes. Any overt references to mind-splitting amounts of acid? No. Gently mocking Ringo? Yes. Any mention of Yoko Ono? No.

Really though none of this matters. The producers have drilled to the core of what people want. And that is for those who never got to hear The Beatles the first time round, it is a chance to hear entirely competent covers of classic songs. And that is what you get – a relentless tidal wave of hit-after-hit performed with verve and energy. The music is so good that you cannot help but tap your toes, clap along and join the gustily sung, surprisingly tuneful audience-led rendition of Yesterday.

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I must thank the good people at Official Theatre for the tickets. Even without this shameless plug, please do check out their website to find out what is going on across the West End; it has links to tickets, venue contact details and bits ‘n bobs about all the theatres – the sort of thing I would do if I wasn’t so damn lazy.  (