La Soiree

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

When is Le Clique not Le Clique? When it’s La Soiree.

The stars of the earlier, much acclaimed, cabaret-burlesque night have recruited a couple of new faces, given themselves a new name, and set up camp in a swanky art-nouveau tent on London’s South Bank.

A rotating series of guests means the bill isn’t the same every show, but the opening night line-up seemed designed to appeal to a classier sort of girls’ night out market, with plenty of chiselled male torsos on display. ‘Bath Boy’ David O’Mer is a clear favourite, gymnastically swooping in and out of his tub on two silk ropes from the ceiling while wearing only skintight jeans. This toned Berliner pulls off his skilful feats with such heavy sexual overtones, he makes bathtime dirty.

Also returning are The English Gents, acrobats who strike poses of sublime strength and balance in their pinstripes and bowlers, without ever letting any exertion break that ‘stiff upper lip’ demeanour. Only when they hear the strains of Land Of Hope And Glory they realise it is time to do their duty– and so carefully put down that copy of Financial Times, and get their kit off for Queen and country. It must be the first time anyone’s stripped to Elgar.

Both the Gents return later for solo spots. Denis Lock’s turn is pretty much more of the same – striking more acrobatic poses while dressed in stereotypical national dress – this time a Japanese kimono – only to strip down to his undies for the finale; and suffers in comparison to the double-act.

Hamish McCann’s take on the pole dance, however, is astoundingly impressive. Simply describing his act as walking horizontally around a lamppost can’t hope to capture the strength – and more importantly the amazing control – needed to pull off such a unique and classy display.

Male audience members, perhaps already over-served by the nipple-tassle end of the burlesque market, had rather less eye-candy beyond Miss Behave’s unfeasibly tight PVC frock. Her comic bawdiness and sideshow turns frequently punctuate the other acts, contributing greatly to the sense of shoddy decadence that makes the night so much fun. Billed as the last female sword-swallower in the West, you don’t want to know what she does with a barstool… but you’ll want to watch it.

Also making a welcome return is incredible rubber-man Captain Frodo, who likewise takes his freak-show talent for contortion and adds a brilliant comic twist. He is an outstanding physical comedian, so awkwardly clumsy that he’ll appeal even to people who think they don’t like physical comedy, though the more sensitive may end up watching his wince-inducing act from behind their hands.

More pratfalls from Mooky Cornish as Mila Malakovna, a magician from Eastern Europe, with dreadful tricks, appalling presentation and a terribly ill-judged leather outfit from the Eighties. The clumsy conjurer isn’t that exciting a concept, and her first few minutes stutter along, but the routine takes off when she takes a tumble – and tests just how many times the same gag can be funny. The answer here is, the more, the better. The spirit of Norman Wisdom lives on.

In another appearance, Mooky drags out an audience volunteer to act with her in a romantic playlet what she wrote, his lines hidden in props and around her ample person. It’s vaguely reminiscent of an old Generation Game round, but this domineering Canadian comic has the comic skills to make it shine, while her victim proves a remarkably good sport.

Completing the bill are the hula-hooping Marawa, adept at a skill I’ve rarely seen appeal, and inventive puppeteers Cabaret Decadanse, bringing disco divas and sultry lounge singers to life.

But for all the variety of talented performers, the star of the show is the show itself; an exuberant, fun night out, offering a modern take on opulent cabaret at a reasonable price (standing tickets are £15, though you can pay a lot more). It’s just the thing to get you through the economic gloom this Christmas.

Review date: 22 Oct 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: South Bank Big Top

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