Almost inevitably, doing a show at Christmas draws comparisons to Panto – that staple of British theatre that keeps the house funded for the rest of the year; but stood next to
A jaw dropping delight.
With its beginnings at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe of 2004 (the same place and year of Broadway Baby’s birth), bawdy burlesque-cum-contemporary circus La Clique has had plenty of time to refine its craft and this year’s show – as the highlight of Underbelly’s Christmas In Leicester Square – may well be the best yet.
Hedonistic, erotogenic and opulent, it’s hosted by Little Death Club’s Bernie Dieter, mistress of Weimar punk, who corrals a troupe of expert cabaret and variety acts supported by vocalist Kelly Wolfgramm and ‘La Clique Palace Orkestra’. Dieter flirts constantly with her audience, her playthings in a deliciously wicked game of chicken. Dieter always wins.
The programme suggests the line up will not always be the same, but you can expect a potent cocktail of acrobats, contortionists, magicians, aerialists, musicians and striptease all precisely curated by director Craig Ilott so that every eye in the Spiegeltent is fixed on the current turn; never once glancing at a watch to see when the next act might be coming along.
We’re eased in by Florian Brooks, a Belgium-born juggler who proves there are more interesting things to throw and catch than just bowling pins. This is followed variously by the very fit Jamie Swan impressing on aerial straps; Heather Holliday, sword swallowing and fire breathing to a skill level I’ve never before witnessed; Charlie Wheeler whose hoedown with the Cyr Wheel was particularly impressive given the size of the performing area; ‘Bath Boy’ Stephen Williams who took delight in acrobatically splattering as much of the audience as he could, tumbling in and out of a cast iron bath; Lydia Norman and Zoe Marshall performing both a double act in an aerial hoop and individually with their own specialities, and David Pereira in the first half twisting impossibly atop a shopping trolley, and in the second half shaving his face with his foot wearing nothing more than a millimetre of shaving foam smeared over his magnificently toned body.
To say I enjoyed the performance would be an understatement. I loved it. There may be very little Christmas in it, but for a show at Christmas it’s a jaw dropping delight.