Festival Square Spiegeltent, Edinburgh – Until 6 January 2018
Guest reviewer: Hugh Simpson
Back in Edinburgh and back in a tent, La Clique serve up a disparate collection of acts that provide some real entertainment as well as some less satisfactory moments.
Despite the name, there is nothing Christmassy about the show, bar a couple of nods at either end. Otherwise, La Clique continue to occupy a niche of their own between the underground and the mainstream. A combination of cabaret, comedy and circus skills that gives a welcome place for those speciality acts now so unfairly ignored.
The combination of genres can make for an uneasy mixture. The desire to appeal to a Christmas-night-out crowd is added to the knowing campery of much of the contemporary burlesque and cabaret scenes. This leads to an inconsistency of tone in a production that, for all of its individual moments of brilliance, is never really at ease with itself.
This is definitely not a children’s show. There is nudity, and one act that probably should not be detailed here – not least because a description would sound much more exciting than the reality. Much of it is ‘adult entertainment’ as imagined by a thirteen-year-old boy – all winks, jokes and flashes of flesh. Not only does this detract from some of the skill on display, it is joyless and oddly sexless.
Heather Holliday’s defiantly old-school fire-eating and sword-swallowing would work just as well without the nudge-nudge elements, while Leah Shelton’s accomplished physical displays are not always enhanced by the knowing humour. Vicky Butterfly’s dancing is impressive but lacking in real magnetism.
There is, however, genuine joy not only in Craig Reid’s bravura hoop-twirling, but also in Scott Grabell’s thoroughly odd but diverting Blue Bunny, while the acrobatics of Tim Kriegler and Johnny Rey are gasp-inducing.
The presentations of these routines are symptomatic of the odd tone of the evening, however. Kriegler is accompanied by a touching version of Nature Boy, while Rey’s routine suffers from a lumpen version of Purple Rain, complete with one of the more egregious examples of the tiresome guitar solos that punctuate the music.
Much of that music – from Dannie Bourne’s band – is sprightly and enjoyable, particularly some well executed swing and jump blues numbers. Some of it is intrusive and out of place. In a show that features a man in a bunny costume whose act is self-confessedly paper-thin, the oddest thing on display is still undoubtedly the otherwise excellent Kelly Wolfgramm ‘s torturously OTT rendition of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
Compere Bernie Dieter spends a little too much time using her abundant comic gifts on making audience members feel uneasy purely because she can, which sums up much of what is going on here. Awkwardly straddling two stools in appealing to both the well lubricated office-outing crowd and those who crave genuine artistry, there is too much geared towards the former – but there is certainly still enough to satisfy the latter.