Sophie's Surprise 29th - Credit Craig Sugden.

Sophie’s Surprise 29th at the Underbelly Boulevard | Review

Sophie is 29 and she’s going to celebrate in style – she just doesn’t know it yet!

Sophie’s surprise 29th lands in London, at Underbelly’s new permanent venue, Underbelly Boulevard, after a well-received run on the Edinburgh fringe. The cast have certainly found their feet – or rather, launched themselves off them: this is a contemporary circus and cabaret extravaganza, where performers spend as much time hanging from aerial straps / hoops / ropes / trapezes as they do on firm ground. All to give Sophie a celebration completed by naked improv songs, Wotsits, Skips, party poppers and karaoke. God knows how the friends are going to beat this for Sophie’s thirtieth!

Sophie's Surprise 29th - Credit Craig Sugden.
Sophie’s Surprise 29th – Credit Craig Sugden.

These are circus performers at the top of their game. No, that doesn’t necessarily mean technical perfection, but it does mean astonishing performances. When Isis Clegg-Vinell’s roller skates fly past audience members within a whisker of the front-row (you have been warned!), they obediently sit back in their seats. While Nathan (Price) lectures us on the cultural appropriation of lower-socio-economic lives being inflicted upon us by their portrayal of ‘the chav’, we listen. It is raucous and exhilarating and all done with a knowing wink. Whether it’s Marxist reinterpretation or nods to clichés, as when Katharine Arnold’s nerdy girl transforms into a raw beauty who spins in the air, sparkling like a glitter ball, in an almost spiritual moment, this is a show that knows how to tug at our emotions.

For a production that subverts so well a set of stock characters: the nerd, the goth, the jock, the druggie, it seems a shame to me that lines of desire and identity are drawn so conventionally. At Sophie’s after-party, another reveller expounds to me his theory that the only artistic medium queerer than circus is magic. (He makes a convincing case: magic is practiced alone in a bedroom, and all about finding new places to hide a wand!) This is a show (fair warning!) that has plenty of audience participation – whether that has you rushing to buy tickets or running a mile. I’m already wondering before he lays his theory out for me whether Sophie always has to be a woman; whether audience members to be clambered upon or made to dance have to be men. Perhaps next performance they won’t be!

All that said, I find myself whisked through the show with a huge grin on my face. It’s clear that the performers are having a lot of fun, and so do we. Why not? It’s a surprise party, after all.

5 Stars

Review by Ben Ross

Get in losers, Sophie is turning 29 and we’re celebrating.

This is circus, comedy and chaos disguised as a house party. Imagine if Cirque du Soleil had sunstroke, Spice Girls never broke up and Les Miserables was actually Les Happyables.

Featuring world-leading performers from La Clique, The 7 Fingers, Cirque du Soleil, and more, Sophie’s Surprise 29th is stumbling into Underbelly Boulevard for its London debut. Expect Twilight fan fiction, death-defying circus feats and a pumping soundtrack at the craziest party of your life.

Get your Walkmans, scrunchies and halter tops ready, the party starts April 11.
Remember… don’t tell Sophie.

Katharine Arnold
Cornelius Atkinson
Isis Clegg-Vinell
Dru Cripps
Josie Jones
Nathan Price

Booking to 28th June 2024

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