Ongals at Soho Theatre – 08/12/17

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Well, that was surreal. We spent the evening with four knife-juggling, man-size, Korean babies. It was fun but yes, a touch surreal. I’ll tell you all about it in a second.

First though, a festive wander around Oxford Street. I know this sounds like most people’s idea of Hell but ooh, there are pretty lights and sparkly things. So many sparkly windows. And as with last year’s trip to Knightsbridge, Eva had to stop at every window to coo over how yuvyee it all was. I didn’t find the McDonald’s and Primark experience quite so yuvyee but we did emerge with 2xChristmas jumpers and 2xHappy Meal toys so I really felt a sense of achievement. They also ate the food that came in the Happy Meals but that seems largely inconsequential to the kids.

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So onto Soho Theatre. They were super keen to get in and so I didn’t even get to claim my free drink at the bar, though it might taken the edge off all the late-night child wrangling. None of us really knew what to expect and the large box which said “Toy” didn’t offer many clues. Soon enough though, the lights dimmed and the music started and we were about to be sucked into the crazy world of Ongals.

And how to explain this? Well, it’s pretty high speed and packed full of variety. There’s juggling with clubs, slapstick, bell ringing and even a little light whipping. Reuben enjoyed all the fart jokes near the beginning and yowled with laughter at a gag involving a bike pump and a balloon….and that’s all I’m going to say on that. Eva was enjoying herself too until one of the Ongals pretended to swallow a balloon, at which point she freaked out a bit. She’s easily scared but balloon-swallowing is a brand new phobia of hers. She was eventually won back when they started juggling with sparkly rings and throwing them to each other. Again, she’s impressed by anything sparkly.

I’ll admit all of us were a little terrified when it came to a stunt involving a whip, an audience member and a pocky stick. I won’t spoil the moment for you but you’ll be glad to hear there was no first aid required. Except for that poor mannequin.

All four of the performers are really supremely talented. The entire show was mimed, with only a smattering of English words and what sounded like some Mandarin counting (tho I assume it was probably Korean) and it takes a lot of skill to keep the audience engaged and laughing using just body language. They were all masters of facial communication and physical comedy but then on top of that they each have at least one individual talent to show off. The guy in the light blue was an adept knife-juggler and pulled off a magic trick with a Coke can that emerged as Reuben’s favourite moment of the show. The guy in the dark blue was an awesome beat boxer and there were some impressive moments involved hand-bells and balloon modelling.

I’ll tell you this – it is like nothing else you’ll see in London this Christmas. It’s overwhelmingly colourful, energetic and yes, mind-boggling but it was a furiously fun 60 minutes and afterwards we even got to meet the Ongals and have our photo taken by KADA (Korean Artists Development Agency). If I find it on the internet, it’ll sit nicely here won’t it?

In the (hopefully temporary) absence of that photo though, I’ll paint you another mental picture. It’s the picture of my kids on a Piccadilly Line platform, staring desolately at a sign that threatened 13 minutes until the next train. All of us tired and over-layered for the tube. It’s not a pretty picture and it wasn’t a pretty situation but we made home it eventually.  Remember how Primark in Oxford Street at Christmas time wasn’t *quite* my idea of Hell. Well, we have a replacement all lined up…

Disclaimer: We received free tickets to “Ongals” in exchange for a review. All opinions remain honest and my own. For more information and to book tickets, click here.

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