A strange spectacle of elegant violence, 'Cantina' is the signature show of the London Wonderground, a spiegeltent pop-up venue on the South Bank. Created in 2010 by the Australian company Strut & Fret ('Tom Tom Crew'), it's comparable to 'La Clique' in that it offers a series of turns blending circus, comedy and magic. But 'Cantina' is a darker, more cohesive affair – carnival with a dash of David Lynch.
The show has a Depression-era, Dust Bowl feel with ingenious mechanical scavenging, underpinned by Nara Demasson's ever-present score: exploiting found and made instrumentation, it hints at 'Amélie', Erik Satie, and 'The Third Man'.
The performance is mainly non-verbal – acrobatics, contortion, aerialism – and of a very high standard, from splits on the tightwire to a walk across freestanding Champagne bottles. The fluidity is superb and the six circus performers, led by Chelsea McGuffin (who co-directs with Scott Maidment), bring charisma and humour; Mozes's Ursula Martinez-style stark-bollock-naked magic act stands out on that front.
What's really striking about 'Cantina', though, is its movement into darker psychological terrain. It's laced with erotic and violent tension and motifs of power and abuse, humiliation and co-dependence: bodies are twisted, struck and thrown; couples go at each other; the aerialist's rope has never seemed closer to the hangman's. There's plenty of business with shoes, too. An impressive night of virtuoso skill and fantasy – but don't bank on sweet dreams afterwards.