BWW Review: LA CLIQUE, Leicester Square Spiegeltent
Your reviewer has seen a few of these crossover shows over the years - starting in the late 80s with Archaos at Battersea Power Station via a few Cirque du Soleil outings in Vegas and London and more big top traditional circuses than I can remember. So it takes a bit to impress my somewhat jaded eye - but this show did just that.
The talent matters of course - and that's top drawer - but pacing and variety matter just as much (as they have since the music hall days, another cultural ancestor of La Clique). No act outstayed its welcome, so I fully expected to find that the show must have been cut 20 mins or so from its advertised running time. But no - the time had flown by.
Director, Craig Ilott, relies on Weimarish diva Bernie Dieter and a pulsating band to drive the show forward. Dieter is naughty of course, but picked her victims in the house well and sings well too. There's just a touch of political transgression to go with the sexual innuendo, but I'd have liked a little more, given cabaret's roots and (as Dieter herself says) the times in which we live.
Florian Brooks, gentleman juggler, got us underway in lowish key, picking up the accoutrements of a waiter to amaze and astonish - it was a nice nod to the kind of revolution the last twenty years has seen in street magic. No skittles!
The bill varied a little from the programme, as shows like this will over a longish run, but the quality was maintained throughout. Highlights included Heather Holliday who, with a touch of Josephine Baker in her look, swallowed swords and breathed fire. Lydia Norman and Zoe Marshall spectacularly wrapped themselves around each other and a suspended hoop in a kind of L-word 3D Kama Sutra and Bath Boy, Stephen Williams, splashed about while hoisting himself high, buffed muscles bulging.
With Kelly Wolfgramm belting out standards, the clearing of the set between acts was barely noticed and, after the flesh factor was taken to the max (I haven't seen so many six packs on one night since I caught the boat train to Holyhead), we were soon applauding the performers and bracing for the cold.
This is entertainment rather than theatre (the bar is open throughout and people talked through the songs - as if it were a gig) but it succeeds on those terms. There was a genuine buzz amongst the (youngish) house when the lights went up - not many could say that they hadn't been thrilled. La Clique may be as tight a knit troupe as their name suggests, but they'll win many friends during this Christmas residency.
Photo Craig Sugden