Scotch & Soda in Berlin:
I was lucky enough to be invited by the Chämaleon Theatre in Berlin for a second visit, this time to see the spectacular Company 2’s production of Scotch & Soda. Knowing already what a wonderful venue it is, and just how this extraordinarily creative team manage to discover and stage some of the most brilliant contemporary circus acts from around the world, I was more than delighted to be able to come see their new show which will be running until August 2017.
The Chämaleon Theatre is hidden away in one of the splendid courtyards in the Hackesche Höfe area in the heart of East Berlin in a beautiful, historic building, which was built in 1902. The surrounding district is home to the artistic community and there are many exciting places to discover.
This intimate theatre, which seats about 300 people, was once was an old ballroom and a venue for eccentric vaudeville and it couldn’t be more suited to host this genre of exciting physical theatre. With its cabaret style seating and drinks and food served at the tables, it provides a perfect setting for a night out in Berlin.
Each show does a 6-month residency, which enables Berlin residents and visitors from all around the world to come and experience the real soul of theatre in this innovative and exciting form of contemporary circus.
This production is part of a season of collaborations between the Australian government and Germany called ‘Australia Now Germany 2017’. They are keen to promote the diversity and creative talent of Australia’s culture, unifying a common artistic ground with Germany.
David Carberry and Chelsea McGuffin co-founded the Australian company, Company 2 in 2008 and they have performed on stages around the world ever since. Scotch & Soda is the result of an exciting mixology between two groups of artists and friends. Five amazing acrobats from Company 2’ have come together with five highly experienced jazz musicians from ‘The Uncanny Carnival Band’ led by Lucian McGuiness, to create something completely new and experimental, blending the two arts seamlessly together to form this remarkable and charming production.
Talking to founder member David Carberry before the show, he described how ‘they wanted to create something fun, like a party on stage to bring the audience back in, almost as if they were part of the show’.
And so the show begins and with such energy and colour, and music which uplifts the soul, in a rowdy whisky joint somewhere between depression-era travelling circuses and Europe’s 19th Century carnival past. Both the set and costumes, created a wonderfully lush vintage feel, all ragged, frayed and distressed in the style of the late 1800’s.
The drunken buffoonery sets an anarchic scene, the big band sound and the carnival atmosphere is intoxicating. The band is so exceptionally talented and vibrant, they effortlessly move from one instrument to another. The marriage between the music and acrobatics is so seamless, that it manages to weave the music into the narrative and the extraordinary feats and antics of these highly talented acrobats that have such perfect attunement to the human body.
There are plenty of jaw-dropping, breathtaking moments with a series of balancing acts on champagne bottles, stacks of crates, suitcases, bicycles, body upon body, each becoming progressively more challenging and dangerous, which left the audience gasping.
At one point in a drunken brawl scene, which took stage fighting to whole new level. I was sitting so unnervingly close to the stage, that there were moments I genuinely thought someone might well fly into my lap!
Humour, insight and charm ran throughout, and an infinite sense of camaraderie and trust between the company. There were delightful elements of cheeky charm, and the charismatic David managed to flirt effortlessly with his audience, which had them all in the palm of his hand.
I left the theatre with a smile on my face and a heart full of joy; I had definitely felt part of this fabulous party!
So hats off to the Chämaleon Theatre, who once again have successfully dedicated themselves to the art of contemporary circus. Their conceptual approach cleverly blurs the boundaries between different genres, such as acrobatics, dance, music and theatre, creating an exciting form of new circus that exceeds the imagination in an environment where you are able to share this exciting and intimate experience. And without language barriers, this show is for everyone from all nationalities. So if you’re planning a trip to Berlin, be sure to book tickets to see this wonderful show, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Dinner at Hackesche Höfe
After the theatre, we were taken to the Hackesche Höfe, a large but cosy restaurant that is conveniently located directly below the theatre, perfect for a post or a pre-theatre dinner, with the added benefit of some tables in an outside courtyard for the coming summer months. The wood-panelled dining hall hosts an interesting clientele of artists and tourists alike.
Along with the fabulous Chameleon Theatre team and my fellow bloggers and journalists, we were able to debrief after the show and enjoy an excellent meal.
I started with a Caesar salad, with croutons, parmesan cheese and radishes, which was beautifully fresh and crunchy.
For mains I had Catfish, with beetroot and mashed potatoes, it’s not a fish I am very familiar with, it was quite fleshy but light, and was complimented perfectly by the beetroot and creamy mash.
This was all washed down with a cold, crisp mellow flavoured Sauvignon Blanc.
Although I was full to the brim, I just couldn’t resist the Crème Brulee, which came in 3 small dishes each a different flavour, passion fruit, chocolate and vanilla, and it was heavenly!
So, after a wonderful evening a culture and fine food and company I was ready to head back to my hotel.
NH Collection Hotel, Friedrichstr, Mitte
I was staying in the very centrally located 4 Star NH Collection Friedrichstr, Mitte. NH are a hotel chain, the Collection hotels are chain’s more high-end range.
Walking into the lobby I was pleasantly surprised by the open and spacious reception area, on one wall there were huge rolling projections of Berlin sights which alongside the simple furnishings gave it a very contemporary edge.
My room was on the 8th floor so I had a fantastic view over the city especially as I had a huge balcony. Simple, sleek, clean lines and a neutral pallet with a splash of red and silver gave it a distinctly modern feel.
I have to admit I have a bit of a weakness for fresh, crisp white linen and plush pillows so I wasn’t disappointed when I tumbled into bed at the end of a long day. I was also rather pleased to be provided with an espresso machine in the room as I rather enjoyed having my morning coffee in bed with a view of Berlin at my disposal.
Breakfast was excellent; the dining room was particularly impressive with its high ceiling and industrial structure, plus a massive floor length window with a great view out onto the street. There was an enormous array of delicious fruits, mini smoothies, cereals, pastries, cold meats and hot food plus plenty of healthy options. The Germans seem to cater very well for those with allergies and particular food needs such as vegans, which makes travelling a lot easier for some.
All in all, I had a wonderfully comfortable visit, in a beautifully presented hotel. I would highly recommend NH Collection, Friedrichstr for a stay in central Berlin, with the benefit of easy access to transport, sightseeing, shops and restaurants.
A short time to explore the city
With such a short trip, there was little time to do much sightseeing the next morning, so after breakfast, I took myself out on a short tour. I was incredibly fortunate with the weather as the sun was shining and the atmosphere was tangible as the Berliners rode their bikes and drank their morning coffees out on the pavement cafes.
I decided to take a tram to Hakeschen Hofe Markt, (where the Chameleon Theatre is), I had had a taste of the area but wanted to explore a little more. I was able to walk around the wonderful maze of small courtyards, which are tucked away behind the busy streets. It is very much the home of artists and design shops, apparently, although it is all privately owned by one family they try to maintain the rent at a reasonably low level so as not to drive out the creative industries and to retain the individuality of the area. It remains a bit of a well-kept secret and it almost feels like a small city as you weave your way through the cobbled streets, street art adorns the walls and there are plenty of unique and independent galleries, shops and cafes.
As I walked my way back over the river, I took in the magnificent French Cathedral, the regal looking Humboldt University building and I walked up Unter den Linden, a wide and central street which leads to Brandenburg Gate. Berlin is smaller than I thought, it’s very easy to get around, by bus, tram or subway, although walking on a fine day was a perfect way to get more of a sense of the area.
I lunched on a gloriously healthy salad at Dean & David, very close to my hotel before grabbing my bags and waving farewell to Berlin.
I have been made to feel so incredibly welcome in this great city by the fabulous team at the Chameleon Theatre on both my visits. The standard of the shows I have see there over the past year have been extraordinarily high and I feel as if I have been taken on a real theatrical adventure, plus made some lovely new friends into the bargain.
I have returned home a very happy traveller, after an enthralling visit to the coolest theatre in Berlin, eating like a queen at The Hackescher Hof, staying at a fabulous hotel, and taking in some of the sights in the first few days of the Berlin summer, what’s not to love.
So if you are planning to visit Berlin, I couldn’t recommend a night out at the Chameleon Theatre enough. Be sure to book in advance if you can, as it is a popular venue and it would be very disappointing if you weren’t able to get tickets.