Company Cantina @ The Spiegeltent
8:30pm, Fri 11 Feb 2011
Fifteen minutes before Cantina is due to start, and the lines are huge – and the plural is correct there, because The Garden don’t have a cohesive plan for the Spiegeltent queue yet, so the twin snakes of confused patrons manage to double-block the Friday-night flow of people coming into The Garden. That’s okay – it took them a while to sort out the queues last year, too – but there’s much grumbling and muttering amongst the peeps around me.
Even now, waiting for its opening performance, it’s pretty clear that Cantina will be the big-ticket draw-card at The Garden this year; I started chatting to the people around me, asking them what drew them to the show. “Advertising,” said one couple; “we thought it might be the next La Clique,” said another. And I guess that, truth be told, I sided with the latter there; I, too, thought this would be the next buzz-show, the one that everyone raves about, the one that defines the Fringe. So I thought I’d squeeze it in on opening night, when there may be less people in the crowd.
Wrong. There were a few spare seats in the Spiegeltent, but not many; and, despite having the advantage of being by my lonesome, the single seat I chose was possibly one of the worst in the house: straight inside the door, looking parallel to the steel tightrope to the central stage, behind the big-headed chap who constantly seemed to turn in his seat to maximally impede my potential view.
With a twang of ukelele and a twee song, a tightrope act opens the show; He (David Carberry) balances and descends, She (Chelsea McGuffin) tackles the wire in high heels. There’s a bit of a dance, a dash of Henna Kaikula‘s flexible form, Daniel Catlow and Carberry slap each other around for a bit, and Mozes presents a bit of cheeky naked hanky-hiding magic. McGuffin walks across the tops of wine bottles, Kaikula performs more bendable antics on a bed of broken glass… and then it’s over.
And I leave the Spiegeltent very unaffected… because it’s all so very familiar.
Why’s it so familiar, then? Well, look at that cast – Carberry (who didn’t look at all confident all night) and Catlow hail from Tom Tom Club. Mozes brought his hanky-hiding and roller-skating from Acrobat. Musician Nara Demasson (whose lovely singing, ukelele and guitar playing was supplemented by some fantastic moody ambient pre-recorded stuff) was in Vulgargrad. In short, it felt like I’d seen it all before because… well, I’d seen it all before.
Now, don’t get me wrong – there’s still some great entertainment to be had, and the prominent use of high-heels was certainly novel. And if you haven’t seen any of the abovementioned acts (or even La Clique), then you’re in for a treat. But the “cantina” motif (and its presumably Spanish inclinations) feels underdeveloped, and fails to create a coherent package. The rest of the crowd may have loved it (though someone waiting outside told me “no-one left smiling”), but colour me somewhat disappointed.
(Oh – if you do go to see Cantina, try to get a seat at three o’clock in the Spiegeltent (assuming the entrance is at six o’clock)).