Wander down a couple of well-trodden routes off Oxford street and the dingy roads melt away to reveal a neon playground that is like acid on the senses. Welcome to Soho. SOHO, the show (#SohoTheShow) captures this brilliantly. Premiering at Peacock Theatre with a run until 20th May, it explores 24 hours in City of Westminster district.
Essentially the show consists of 14 scenes which capture various elements of Soho, the Square to China Town and so much more in between. From the start, you get a sense of the place: out of the tube and straight into the hustle and bustle. The stage is filled with a gaggle of eclectic characters, all vibrant, and all engrossed in their own worlds but pulled together by our guide Alessio Motta (in guise as a lost traveller), as we follow his own exploration of Soho.
The dance element kicks off slowly with a smattering of popping and locking and some b-boying. This is only a taste of what is to come. Get to scene 4 and visually, the tempo goes up a level. To say the aerial acrobatics are good is to downplay the incredible skill, style and sheer strength of the performers. It’s like the daredevils and death defiers of a circus troupe have come out to play. And play is the optimal word.
The trapeze and acrobatics are complimented with an awesome soundtrack which sets the tone, and some clever choreography. There was so much to see and take in on the stage. Which is my only criticism. There were times when it was so frenetic, I didn’t know where to look, worried I'd miss the main act having become so engrossed in the seduction taking place on the right or the joke playing out on the left. But that might have been deliberate.
Soho, like its namesake, is colourful, nonstop and has many faces and facets. Like the district at night, it comes alive, and the 2nd half the show took it up a notch. Just when I thought this couldn’t get better, I was proven wrong. The acrobatics were jaw dropping, the dances funky, the scenes and settings choreographed to perfection, performed by world class performers who have clearly honed their craft, and bodies. The whooping and frenzied cheering that occurred when the guys’ tops came off, was deafening. All this set to some classic and unexpected tracks.
And it worked.
The show does not shy away from Soho’s darker and grimier elements; it is all there. While some of the backdrops were obvious, the dancers' interpretation of their scenes were not. There were no pole dancers or red lights, for example, but rather an awe-inspiring aerial hoop solo display, juxtaposed against the power games that take place behind every velvet curtain. It is all expertly portrayed with humour, skill and a crazy digital backdrop capturing some familiar places, journeys and venues, making this visual stroll through memory lane all the more authentic.
I came not knowing what to expect and I left ready to party, the ghost of the soundtrack echoing in my ears, feeling like I had just exited a back alley dingy Soho joint, wanting to go back for more - kind of like my student days going out in Soho. SOHO was loud, in your face and unapologetic, spectacularly different in its blend of skills, artistry, music, visuals and characters, like its namesake.
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