BWW Review: LA SOIREE at Aldwych Theatre
If you're on the hunt for some unorthodox entertainment this Christmas, you could do much worse than a trip to see La Soirée. This 'dysfunctional family' of cabaret and variety acts from around the world have trundled into London again, but this time they've pitched their show not in a circus ring or spiegeltent, but in the West End's Aldwych Theatre.
Some adaptations to the venue - ripping out several rows of stalls seats to accommodate the tiny round 'main' stage, and placing cabaret seating on the theatre stage - help to recreate something of the atmosphere of their previous venues. However, a little of the intimacy and edginess is inevitably lost in a more traditional theatre setting. That said, the high ceiling and theatrical rigging allow for some pretty spectacular acts to ply their trade.
Several of this year's acts are in an acrobatic/gymnastic vein. Mallakhamb, a duo from India, demonstrate their impressive timing and strength with the use of just a wooden pole. Hand to Hand, a duo of former competitive gymnasts (Leon Fagbemi and Klodi Dabkiewicz), perform a beautiful, sensual mix of dance and acrobatics that is as remarkable for Leon's strength as for Klodi's flexibility.
There are also several aerial feats. Hackney boy LJ Marles' act sees him execute some quite extraordinary twists and turns on two tension straps with apparently no effort at all. Lea Hinz throws some truly beautiful shapes whilst flying high above the auditorium in an aerial hoop. And Fancy Chance gives a pretty emphatic answer to the question 'is it possible to hang from just your hair?'.
The most impressive acrobatic turn of the night for me came from the Chilly Brothers, whose trapeze-without-a-trapeze routine was truly spectacular with some genuine heart-in-your-mouth moments. Not an easy watch for those of a nervous disposition!
There is additional variety provided by puppeteers Cabaret Decadanse and Michelle Clark, who does some mesmerising and seemingly impossible things with hula hoops. Amy G, meanwhile, mixes roller skating, flamenco, singing and a highly irregular virtuoso turn on the kazoo to great comedic effect.
The rest of the comedy is provided by Las Vegas duo Daredevil Chicken. In a more staid setting their inappropriate humour wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, but I suspect that if you're the type to buy a ticket to La Soirée you'll be able to handle them - even when they do their best to put you off eating bananas for life.
Having seen previous incarnations of La Soirée, I have to say that I felt this one didn't quite measure up to those previous experiences. For my money it could do with even more variety - perhaps a 'straight' comedian, a magician, a juggler, a pure singer of some description (I missed someone like Le Gateau Chocolat or Puddles Pity Party)?
I just found myself hankering after something even more random, extreme or shocking than what was on offer on press night. Since the line-up each night is subject to change, however, this additional variety may indeed be in evidence throughout the run.
One other small peeve for me was that the acts often weren't clearly announced either before or straight after their performance. Some audience members might not mind this, but I always like to know who I'm watching, especially if I enjoy them, so I can find out more about them. Just a small suggestion to the producers!
These minor criticisms aside, La Soirée is still a night of entertainment unlike anything else you'll find in the West End this Christmas. This year they're also doing matinee performances known as La Petite Soirée, appropriate for a family audience. So roll up, roll up for a magical mystery tour of weird and wonderful talents from around the world, to bring a bit of sparkle to your festive season!
Photo credit: Brinkhoff Mogenburg