By Angela East

Soap is a slick circus cabaret from Germany that has been touring the world for the past ten years. It is being presented in Melbourne for the first time this year as part of the Comedy Festival after previous visits to Australia for Brisbane and Sydney festivals, and the Adelaide fringe to wide acclaim.

Six large bathtubs set the stage. These are utilised as props by the performers in many different ways over the 80 minutes of the show. It starts with legs and arms popping out and the cast dancing up from the tubs to pop music accompanied with live operatic singing. The bathtubs replace the traditional circus staging devices, such as balance beams and juggling platforms, and also serve as stages for comedic feet puppetry and exaggerated body illusions. And of course the bath is filled with water for a climatic feature of the program.

A clownish character provides comic relief throughout the show, and though her early encounter with an audience member feels a bit gauche, it thankfully proves to be a lead in for a later act. The cast are all given their moment in the spotlight to show off their skills, and there is a lot more of the cheeky humour, including a juggling striptease, an amusing rendition of Swan Lake in nothing but bath towels, and some water-soaked acrobatics that means there is always a risk that the audience in the front rows might end up a little damp.

Some of the sections felt slightly too long and repetitive, including a section dedicated to ‘splashy splashy’ bath themed song gags, and a few of the circus feats did not quite deliver a big “ah!” moment to satisfactory conclude a set. There were however many highlights, and the cast provided plenty of chances for the audience to be wowed with their skills and strength.

Highlights included: an amazing foot juggler spinning towels on her toes, a sensual acrobatic dance between two of the male cast members which provides some gravitas in contrast to earlier frivolities, an impressive performance on straps showing off the strength and muscle of the performer, and a beautiful performance on the trapeze, the latter two performed under falling rain.

I would have loved to have seen the show pushed a little more, both thematically and physically, but Soap is sensual and refined and it has balanced this with humour and physical theatre to be a highly entertaining show suitable for all ages.

Soap is on at The Coopers Malthouse until April 22nd