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Interactive theatre, particularly in an intimate space, can really grab the imagination. Sophie’s Surprise 29th is just that; it’s a surprise for some unsuspecting audience member who gets to play Sophie for the evening. The ‘Sophie’ on press night was certainly up for the fun and really put herself into it throughout the evening.

Sophie’s Surprise 29th is a blend of comedy, audience interaction, circus, and an introduction to five stunning performers who have a combined skill set and passion for performing that is as awe-inspiring as it is unbelievable to witness. To be fair, there is no shortage of circus-themed cabaret shows on the circuit. But what makes Sophie’s Surprise 29th stand out is this raw, nostalgic, and moving way the company has realised their show. 

With most of the company coming from backgrounds that include long tours with Cirque du Soleil, what Nathan Redwood Price, Cornelius Atkinson, Dru Cripps, Katharine Arnold, and Isis Clegg-Vinell do is not reinvent this type of circus cabaret performance but instead inject some much-needed originality that allows them to showcase their undeniable skills.

Some of the highlights included Arnold's routine to Letters to Cleo's 'I Want You to Love Me,’ which played very nicely into the 1990s teen rom-com vibe that they were aiming for. There was something about Arnold’s storytelling and performance in this scene that was captivating. Atkinson goth, another brilliant throwback to the 1990s, had some brilliant moments, particularly at the end of one of his solo bits. Price and Clegg-Vinell rollerskating duo was stunning and highlighted their clear connectivity as a performing duo. But it was Cripps, the raver, who, for a brief moment, really stole the show.

"At one point, there was some back and forth between him and someone up on the balcony who kept making noises."

Cripps has a lot of energy coming onto the stage, first dancing to a variety of songs, then with only a beatbox covering the essentials. At one point, there was some back and forth between him and someone up on the balcony who kept making noises. This was very funny, organic and could have gone on for ages if the person making the noise kept it up. When Cripps came back with just a beatbox, the best form of uncomfortable audience interaction took place, the first being a police officer in the front row, which got funnier the longer he loitered around her.

There is an aside during the show about the representation of the working class within the arts, which got a huge laugh. Though brief, this seemed like a valid point, as Three Legged Race's tagline, Limitations Foster Creativity, is as powerful as it is fundamental to the type of theatre this company is creating. How do working-class artists like Price, Atkinson, Cripps, Arnold, and Clegg-Vinell get into the circus and all the way to Cirque du Soleil? The show allows them, using humour and some tongue-in-cheek imagery, to create something more authentic about who they are and where they’ve come from, which can be rather inspiring.

Perhaps if we take a moment to reflect on what turning 29 means, it’s the final year of our youth, as our twenties fly by faster than we could ever imagine. At 29, there is one last hurrah before our 30th and the real death of this youth we never really got to exploit. What Three Legged Race Productions have created is a show that is filled with insight, humour, nostalgia, and a fair dose of self-reflection.

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