Opening Night of the Festival and the Speigeltent is up in Aotea Square ! Even with the corporate guests, it was good to see a virtually full house.
Coming from excellent reviews both in London and the Sydney Festival, “Cantina” has been billed as one of the highlights of the Festival. Created and co-directed by Chelsea McGuffin and Scott Maidment, the show, which was originally created for the 2010 Brisbane Festival is a bit of vaudeville, cabaret, acrobatics and dance set in something like a dingy 1930s cellar club.
The show actually has roots from “La Clique” which wowed audiences around the world (including a turn in Auckland in 2007, apparently) before splitting up somewhat acrimoniously. Having seen “La Soiree” in Melbourne last year, I had a rough idea of the sort of thing to expect.
From a visual point of view, the show delivers nicely from the start – Daniel Catlow (who, as one Sydney reviewer pointed out looks rather like Ryan Gosling) works his way on a not tightrope and is joined, in high heels, by McGuffin. Granted the rope is not all that high but it is impressive enough.
McGuffin rather steals the show in many respects – her balancing act on champagne bottles on the piano had the girls talking about possibly trying to replicate it as a party trick. She also has the pleasure (if you can call it that) of treading on and all over David Carberry who seemed to rate fairly well amongst the female audience. And she gets royally tossed around and stretched by Carberry and Catlow in a dazzling routine which they learned from veteran vaudevillian Clete Bal and have perfected over many years.
But the show is about the high-energy, high-strength ensemble cast and everyone gets a fair turn. While “La Soiree” has the fantastic Ursula Martinez and her red handkerchief, “Cantina” has Mozes and he is the reason for the sign of the door warning about male nudity. His trick with the paper is good, though (you need a broadsheet, not the half-sized Herald !). But he is also pretty nifty on a pair of roller skates in a routine with Carberry and a spectacular rope routine (without a net). Everyone has a turn on stage and in the band too. So as well as eminently flexible, you need to be extremely versatile to join this troupe.
At roughly an hour and fifteen minutes, the show is not that long. In some ways, you want a little more but we were amazed and happy in equal measure. It would have been nice to have some sort of verbal segue between vignettes just to add to a sense of story. But in the scheme of things, that’s a relatively small detail. “Cantina” is definitely worth seeing.