La Soiree 2011

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

Of all the many attempts of the years to revive the circus, La Soiree and its predecessor La Clique have been by far the most successful. By now their London residency has become as much a seasonal staple as tabloid scare stories about local authorities banning Christmas.

How, then, to avoid it becoming as stale as week-old turkey sandwiches, especially given the amount of repeat business they get? When camp crowd-wrangler Mario, Queen of the Circus, asked who’d seen his spirited Freddie Mercury tribute act before, half the audience in the Roundhouse raised their hand.

Thankfully, the variety line-up offers a well-judged mix of old favourites and new delights, all remaining true to the burlesque ethos and so ensuring another decadently stylish and daringly entertaining night out.

Returnees kicked off with the rich, velvety tones of La Gateau Chocolat, a rotund, flamboyantly dressed baritone delivering his languid version of Nessun Dorma while in sequinned Lycra bodysuit, which made him resemble a human glitterball.

Later Kiev’s Yulia Pykhtina – one of the originals from the first Clique show back in 2004 – twirled her hula hoops like an exotic dervish, while The English Gents performed their solo acrobatic slots, Denis Lock with his Japanese-inspired tower of chairs, and Hamish McCann’s unforgettably awesome lamp-post routine – displaying incredible strength and control as he walks horizontally around the pole.

Canada’s Mooky Cornish reprises her audience-participation/humiliation routine from last year, acting out a romantic playlet with her reluctant patsy given lines hidden around her person, and there’s a welcome return for The Skating Willers. Their spectacular roller-skating act has now been given a tongue-in-cheek back story; the revelation that they are divorced giving their daring feats an extra frisson of danger in the crowds’ imagination. They execute their pacy routine with a skill only 30 years in the business can achieve, even though Wanda Azzario barely looks old enough to have been doing it for ten. Being spun around a metre-radius platform by your neck is clearly a most effective fitness regime.

Other old favourites such as incredible rubber-man Captain Frodo, naked magician Ursula Martinez and bathtub hunk David O’Mer were missing tonight – but they will be dropping into a guest spot at various points in the run. Taking that slot on opening night was David Armand with his tried-and-tested – but still amusing – ‘interpretive dance’ to Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn, which he takes very literally.

But the trio of new recruits to the Soiree stable were among those who made the biggest impression, including Hugo Desmarais and Katharine Arnold, who held the audience spellbound with a sultry and remarkable aerial routine they created specifically for this run.

Nate Cooper was similarly remarkable, dressed in elegant coat-tails and less elegant roller-skates. His struggles to keep upright, and remain on the tiny central stage, were slapstick at its best – every stumble seemingly a moment of genuine peril and executed with a perfect sense of comic timing and exaggerated physicality.

And early on in the night, German duo Kris & Iris brought a real spark to proceedings, providing acrobatics with an electrifying dynamism. The gimmick – if you can call it that – is that he’s 6ft 5in and she’s… well, a lot smaller, allowing him to fling her around like a rag-doll. The result was a hybrid of juggling and gymnastics, providing another impressive display in a variety-packed night that’s full of them. Glorious stuff.

Review date: 29 Nov 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Roundhouse

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