Theatre review: Cantina at London Wonderground, South Bank

Macabre take on the circus is an absolute cracker of a show, writes Jon Dean

I obviously haven’t spent enough time on the South Bank this summer, because the London Wonderground has sprung up without me noticing and it’s fantastic.

It’s got a very Edinburgh festival kind of vibe, not surprising as it is put together by a team of Edinburgh old hands, and with wooden walkways, lanterns hanging from trees, bars and eateries it’s a lovely place to spend a summer’s evening.

The venue is at one end of this adults’ playground, an is like nothing so much as a big circus tent - very apt for the show we were about to see.

A word of caution - seating is not reserved so turn up early. We arrived about 15 minutes before showtime, and after a wait at the box office, ended up sat right at the back, with a post in between us and the stage.

Not that this dimmed our enjoyment - right from the off Cantina is a feast of entertainment.

After the first acts - an impressive tight rope walk in high heels - I thought it might be a more family friendly version of La Clique.

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This turned out not to be the case and a more sinister, macabre tone grew throughout the show.

As well as fantastic feats of acrobatics, strength and agility, it has dark comedy (including full male nudity), hints of domestic violence and a touch of contemporary dance.

A slightly frightening live band creep on stage between acts to play a selection of songs, some hauntingly memorable and some very funny.

Cantina is an alluring and slightly disturbing take on the modern circus - like sitting watching Cirque de Soleil directed by Darren Aronofsky.

It’s also an absolute cracker, a power hour that will stay with for a long time after.

* Cantina is at London Wonderground at the South Bank until September 30