This time last year, La Soirée were performing their smash-hit winter cabaret in the temporarily erected Spiegeltent, in the very centre of Leicester Square. Fortunately, I was sent to review it, and it was an unforgettable evening of magic, mischief and marvelling at the variety and pure spectacle of the feats performed by the cast. In 2015, they won the Olivier Award for Best Entertainment, and I could immediately understand why. So naturally, when La Soirée came back to town to dazzle us again, I jumped at the chance to attend what I hoped would be a fantastic freak show, another night of wonder.
Firstly, La Soirée has moved. “Posh new venue, same cheeky show” is what they claim, but I couldn’t help but wonder why on earth they’d want to upscale the show. It isn’t the “same cheeky show”, how could it be? Under the big top, crammed together in that small space sat ringside around the stage, an atmosphere of a naughty, underground club was cultivated. It felt like London’s best-kept secret, or like travelling back in time, to where all the fantastically odd misfits had been hiding. But in the grandeur, space and soaring ceilings of the Aldwych, this is completely lost. The seedy vibe and smoky corners are gone, and the whole affair seems much more commercialised, which is a real shame. The magic of the show last year lay heavily in the intimacy, but the new, thinly spread affair just can’t offer us this.
However, the content is still very much the same. It is still an awe-inducing cabaret of human all-sorts, and at its very core, a celebration of life and entertainment. Returning crowd favourites are the inimitable Marc and Svetlana, a duo otherwise known as Daredevil Chicken. Their sexy slapstick routine will have you cringing, groaning and roaring with laughter, and I was delighted to watch them again. There is an array of physically impressive acts, such as enchanting aerialist Lea Hinz, and masters of the Russian Cradle, The Chilly Brothers. There’s Rajesh Amrale and Rajesh Mudki, who bring us the ancient art of Mallakhamb straight from the streets of Mumbai, and Fancy Chance, who surely must be the world’s only hair-hanger (yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like). Sadly, the previously popular English Gents are absent, and Denis Lock, one half of the pair, and his magical bubble artistry are sorely missed.
We’re told “leave your troubles at the door, you’re with us now”, and we willingly wander, hypnotised, into their arms. La Soirée is, without a doubt, a one of a kind show. Although it has expanded to a larger venue, the warmth and spirit of the show lives on. Side-splitting and gasp-inducing, you’ll be watching this carousel of curiosities through your fingers.
La Soirée is playing at the Aldwych Theatre until February 3 2018.
Photo: Tristram Kenton