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Interview with circus performer, Chelsea McGuffin

28 April 2015 | Laura Stevens

Australian circus company, Scotch & Soda, are bringing their high octane show to London Wonderground this summer. London Calling caught up with performer Chelsea McGuffin to hear about what happened when she performed in front of Madonna.

London Calling: How was Scotch & Soda created?

Chelsea McGuffin: Scotch & Soda started as a casual conversation between friends. We all go to a festival in Australia each year called 'Woodford Folk Festival' and one day we thought, ‘Why not bring us all together and make a show for the festival which celebrates music, circus and friendship?!’

This was the starting point; a conversation about things that go well together. From there, we held many phone and Skype chats about the show and its direction and within a few weeks we had a sketch of the show. Then we began work on the music and circus acts.

LC: Who thought of the name and what was the reasoning behind it?

CM: We were talking around the theme of things that go well together and David (Carberry) suggested his favorite drink, scotch and soda.​ David likes a good scotch and soda.

LC: Have you ever been tempted to switch the roles of the musicians with the acrobats? Or have a go at least!

CM: Scotch & Soda tries to blend the skills of the music and circus acts so that they have an equal meeting point and both skills have time to take the main stage. I think we have achieved a really good balance but we are always trying new things. 

A few of the circus performers in the show can play musical instruments and a few of the musicians are pretty physical. But we all stick to the skills we are best at. We never say ‘no’ to trying new ideas, though.​

LC: How did you create the show? Did the music come first or the physical skills and acrobatics?

CM: It was a combination of the two. Some pieces of music led some circus acts to develop and some circus acts influenced the music. We only had one week together as a full cast before we had to do the first performance and then a full season. A lot of work was done by sharing videos and music files which meant we could really maximize the five days we had together. 

This first season was really a taster, to get the show up and running and see if this was something we all felt had potential. Here we are, 12 months later, still working together and refining the show and really enjoying the process.

LC: How is it different performing in London as opposed to Australia? Do the audiences differ?

CM: I performed Cantina at the London Wonderground a few years ago and it is still one of the most memorable seasons of my career. The season was 5 months long. It’s very rare to have a season of that length in our industry. I was unsure how my body and mind would cope with the long season but I loved it. It gave me time to really grow as a performer and the audiences were so diverse, it always created a new experience​.

London is the city you visit to see shows. People want to see live entertainment and they are up for new theatre experiences. Tickets are affordable too, which means most people can take the opportunity to see stuff. I love the opportunity to perform in London, especially with my own work.

LC: What has been the most terrifying moment in a performance to date?

MC: A life performing circus skills is full of terrifying moments. That is why we love performing it and people love to watch it. But having to dance the Charleston in front of Madonna, who sat in the front row of our show, was VERY terrifying!​

LC: Will you see any other circus acts when you’re over here?

MC: The guys from Briefs are very close friends of ours. They are at the London Wonderground this summer too and we have had the pleasure of crossing over with them on our last few seasons. So we have seen their show and it’s always great to see your good friends doing what they love and doing it really well.

I would love to see everything and I always try to see what I can when I have the time. It can be really hard, though, when you are performing a lot. My priority is to be the best that I can be for each of my shows. Which means getting a lot of sleep, eating food at the right time ​and training hard. 

LC: What can the London audience expect from Scotch & Soda?

MC: You can expect great music, great circus and heaps of fun. We like to think Scotch & Soda is a show that you can come to and feel like you have just joined in on a travelling circus party. You will leave feeling like you are part of the gang.​

Scotch and Soda are performing at London Wonderground 14 May - 2 Aug 2015. For more details click here.

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