La Clique at Leicester Square

‘Roars of joy from the crowded floor’: LA CLIQUE – Leicester Square Spiegeltent ★★★★

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Leicester Square, London – until 8 January 2022

Ah, Christmastime! There’s nothing like a buff chap in spike-heeled patent thigh-boots somersaulting in the air to make you feel festive. Unless it’s a fire-eater in a glittery orange bikini, or a bloke dressed as a hotel bellboy who has painstakingly developed the rarefied skill of changing his entire outfit to formalwear while balancing on one arm on a pile of suitcases.

La Clique, international circus-cabaret from newly liberated Australia, is on its fifth year at Leicester Square Spiegeltent after many an incarnation across the world, and the setting in the Christmas market absolutely suits it.

We were merrily inclined from the start, what with the fairylights and gingerbread, and this year’s acts (visibly and glowingly delighted to be on the road again) are as beguiling as ever.

MC is Bernie Deiter, a Weimaresque German-Australian jazz chanteuse in a series of gloriously mad glittersome costumes (what is it with cabaret people and tartan?). She movingly tells us at the end how she was locked down in Melbourne for fourteen months, no work or tours, and that they’re all thrilled to be back on the road. Roars of joy from the crowded floor.

That sense of performers grateful to be back and appreciating audiences has been strong this autumn in concerts and plays alike; never felt anything quite like it.

La Clique’s performers are always quality, from several continents; :   top acrobatics, and the deathless Skating Willers (third generation incarnation)  turn up again this year with terrifying near-death whirling. But  it’s the unexpected acts which are is the joy of La Clique’s mix. Some are classic: Heather Holliday sword-swallows (can’t watch!sorry! especially the curved scimitar, that’s new to mr and just too inadvisable) but she also fire-eats , with spectacular humour and skill.   And the highlights were surprises.  Craig Reid,  The Incredible Hula Boy fresh from Vegas, is all beer-belly, lederhosen and pretzel-throwing in a whirling tangle of hoops (used to be a computer programmer, he says).  His hula act is great fun in the first half,  but in the second  the vaudeville classic quick-change tube-act with Mirko Kockenberger (elsewhere a dazzling acrobat) is pure joy, as witty as it is bafflingly skilled..   So is J”Aimime, who does a lovely variety-classic one-as-two ballroom dance act, with a jacket and hat on a stick. It has a very topical MeToo conclusion as her invisible partner actually gets her shiny dress off.  But her other act, described by her as “Balloon eats awkward blonde girl” was brand new to me, and glorious. I have no idea what magical fabric that balloon must be made of, and still don’t quite believe what happened.   But we were all just credulously gleeful by then; abd as we all were punch-drunk near the end, there was  a most extraordinary ,rackety musical parade round the tent by Leo P,  the pink haired saxophonist from Pennsylvania.  His twerking moves make the young Mick Jagger look like an arthritic Benedictine. , and Jagger only had to strum, not blow. The lad’s lungs must be phenomenal.  Ah, go on, mice! give them the Christmas cheese…

Box office lacliquetheshow.com to 8 Jan

‘Roars of joy from the crowded floor’: @lib_thinks finds uproarious festive cheer amongst @LaCliqueTheShow’s #cabaret talents, back at Leicester Square Spiegeltent for Christmas. ★★★★ #LaClique

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Libby Purves
Libby Purves was theatre critic for The Times from 2010 to 2013. Determined to continue her theatre commentary after losing that job, she set up her own site www.theatrecat.com in October 2013. She personally reviews all major London openings, usually with on-the-night publication, and also gives voice to a new generation of critics with occasional guest 'theatrekittens'. In addition to her theatre writing and myriad other credits, Libby has been a presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek for over 30 years. She is also the author of a dozen novels, and numerous non-fiction titles. In 1999, Libby was appointed an OBE for services to journalism.
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Libby Purves on RssLibby Purves on Twitter
Libby Purves
Libby Purves was theatre critic for The Times from 2010 to 2013. Determined to continue her theatre commentary after losing that job, she set up her own site www.theatrecat.com in October 2013. She personally reviews all major London openings, usually with on-the-night publication, and also gives voice to a new generation of critics with occasional guest 'theatrekittens'. In addition to her theatre writing and myriad other credits, Libby has been a presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek for over 30 years. She is also the author of a dozen novels, and numerous non-fiction titles. In 1999, Libby was appointed an OBE for services to journalism.

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