The theme of the night, I’m guessing, must be domesticity. I’ve come to this conclusion after a man juggles champagne flutes and lemons, an acrobat performs an elaborate routine on a shopping trolley (from Waitrose, as far as I could see), and another gives himself a full-body shave on stage. These bizarre acts are punctuated with entertaining musical interludes by Kelly Wolfgramm and the La Clique Palais Orkestra, comedy bits by hostess Bernie Dieter, and jaw-dropping feats by fire eater and sword swallower Heather Holiday.
The night begins with Dieter, in her slightly skewiff wig, gleefully laying the ground rules: cheer as loud as you like, and the bar is open at all times for you to leave your seat and get another gin and tonic. The latter, I think, is part of what makes these cabaret-style shows so successful. Call me old-fashioned, but something about people getting up and leaving to get a drink whilst someone is spinning around the big top by their hair is a bit rude. While I like the idea of the relaxed atmosphere, it does seem to foster a little bit of disrespect. For example, I’m forced to listen the lady sitting in front of me, eight glasses of prosecco in and chewing her friends ear off about something that her boyfriend said, whilst blinding me with the glare of her phone screen every three minutes. Not ideal.
The actual performers, however, are mega talented. Not quite sure about the artistic direction of some pieces, but the talent is undeniable. David Pereira performs a mesmerising routine atop a shopping trolley dressed as an angel. He at one point tries to push the trolley, but is stopped by two dark figures who I can only assume are supposed to be death, and I’m not sure why he couldn’t have just done the routine atop a regular old pommel horse.
A cast iron bath is also wheeled onto the stage, in which Jamie Swan performs an extremely soggy routine, dressed in jeans! He gets in the bath, in his jeans! Nonetheless, he writhes around in the tub and performs an elaborate aerial routine, seductively splashing the front row. Aside from the denim being highly impractical and frankly uncomfortable to look at as they cling to his rather muscular legs, there’s no denying the routine is physically impressive.
The stand-out act for me, though, is Heather Holiday. She emerges onstage in a corset, and proceeds to perform a toe-curling and absolutely terrifying sword-swallowing routine. She’s hypnotic and truly quite scary, and she steals the show. Unbelievably glamorous, in the second act she further risks her life with a fire eating routine that is both spectacular and worrying in equal measure.
La Clique won the Best Entertainment Olivier a decade ago, but I feel these sorts of shows have progressed since then. Shows like La Soirée and Club Swizzle (which, like La Clique, were both co-created by Brett Haylock) seem to offer a wider variety of acts – or perhaps just the acts better suited to my liking. If you enjoy watching shirtless men performing aerial routines whilst dipping in and out of a bath, then La Clique is the show for you. But if you’re after a wider variety of less sexy acts, then perhaps avoid this big-top altogether.
La Clique is playing the Leicester Square Spiegeltent until 4 January. For more information, visit the Christmas in Leicester Square website.