Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Interview: Scotch and Soda’s Chelsea McGuffin & David Carberry

Chelsea McGuffin and David Carberry are the masterminds behind Scotch and Soda which is currently running in London Wonderground’s decadent Spiegeltent on the Southbank until 2nd August as part of its world tour. 

Chelsea and David are creators of the internationally acclaimed show Cantina. To create Scotch and Soda they collaborated with Ben Walsh’s Crusty Suitcase Band. The show presents a mix of circus, dance and original music, providing an unforgettable evening’s entertainment.

I recent spoke to Chelsea and David about why they’re thrilled to be back in London, how they created the show in one week and life on the road…

Scotch and Soda is your baby! How excited are you to be back in London?

Chelsea McGuffin: Really excited, but I guess at the same time really nervous! I can’t wait to just get into the season. It’s always exciting to be back, we’ve done a season in this tent before and it was amazing so I kind of know what this ride feels like. We had a good chance to work on it during previews so we could tweak it for this space.

David Carberry: Yes – excited, nervous and also – hopefully – proud. I guess when you’re doing a show just as a performer you might read a review and if someone has something critical to say sometimes you’ll take it on, but given that this is our baby it means a lot more. The excitement and the honour of being here override the nerves.

This Spiegeltent is fairly traditional, but I imagine you’ve played all sorts of different venues around the world?

CM: Well we created this show to be in a Spiegeltent like this. That was our aim so we really love being in this environment, it feels very intimate and really special. It has its challenges as well because we’re playing in-the-round so you’ve got to reach right out and not just perform in a certain direction. It has such a presence – it feels like so many people have been here before and used this stage which really carries into the show, it’s a great space and really exciting atmosphere. 

When you conceived the show what was your original vision? How much have you seen it grow and develop? The show stands out because you have worked so closely with the musicians …

DC: I guess it started as an idea to collaborate with the band and musicians – and with an equal number of musicians to physical performers to really put the emphasis on equality within performance. They are really brilliant musicians, and the idea was to always have them up on stage too with the physical performers. In terms of creating and developing it, given that we are an unfunded company we are essentially making the show on the road. We put the show together in a week… [laughs]

As you do!

DC: I know – it’s kind of crazy [both laugh]. It means that every time we perform it we are constantly tweaking and making changes which makes it exciting – we’re never bored of it. 

What can audiences expect to go through? What journey do you take them on?

CM: My hope is that the audience leave feeling like they have just been part of a circus music party. There is a journey and there are relationships, but there isn’t necessarily a fixed story that we’re trying to tell. There are lots of interrelationships and ups and downs. My hope is that everyone leaves feeling like they have been part of something, rather than just having watched something.

How important is it that the boundaries of circus are continuously pushed by shows such as this?

DC: Very! And I think here in the UK I’ve seen circus grow – we’ve been coming back here for about ten years. Particularly in the last five years I’ve seen audiences grow, as has the amount of funding that councils give to local circuses – and now we’re even seeing some companies from here coming out and touring Australia! I think that’s really exciting, it’s great that it’s still growing.

CM: …and that the art form continues to grow. Something which is really interesting for me in Scotch and Soda is that in some ways we have gone back to quite traditional circus with the acts just as they are. It’s a nice departure for us to honour circus in that form as well.

How does the audience reaction change from country to country?

DC: A lot [laughs]! Say in the Netherlands people will be really quiet and we’re thinking ‘oh god, they’re really not enjoying the show’, but then at the end they all stand up and give us rapturous applause. In different places people get different jokes, we used a song that people knew in the German version in this particular show and then suddenly everyone was buzzing. Then in South America people were on their feet before the show had even started [laughs], it’s drastically different. 

CM: In London it’s interesting because you get a great diversity of people that come to shows. People want to see stuff which is great. I find that at home in Australia ticket prices can be very expensive for the theatre and so it’s only a certain demographic that go – but what I really like about being here is that all different sorts of people come in. It’s affordable and so it’s really nice to see such a range of people. 

Does working on the show totally take over your lives or do you get time for yourselves during the days?

CM: Everything is pretty much show focused.

DC: I guess the beauty of having a long run, like we do in London, is that as the show gets more refined we have a bit of energy to spend on other things. You’ve got to make sure you get enough sleep and eat properly.

I’m sure you get asked this all the time, but does the risk of the danger involved ever get to you?

CM: Sometimes I wonder [laughs], I think ‘oh gosh the pressure is too much!’ [both laugh] But they’re all calculated risks and once you get through it safely you can go ‘phew it’s done’. Going into a new venue can take you five steps backwards, but everything always comes together. Also, having a good crowd always helps you push through. It’s interesting though, because often the injuries happen when someone trips down the stairs or gets their costume caught up in something and falls over – it’s not just the big tricks [laughs]. Stepping off the mats and going over on your ankle is a really common injury because you finish your big thing and then step off without thinking.

Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Scotch and Soda runs at London Wonderground until 2nd August 2015. Please visit www.londonwonderground.co.uk for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit: Sean Young 

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