The specific circus acts on offer vary from night to night, and can broadly be divided into three categories: those that are truly astounding from a technical viewpoint, those that are exceptionally offbeat, and those that take a very basic concept and then execute it superbly.
These strands are not mutually exclusive, however, and the act that best encapsulates all three is Captain Frodo. Born double jointed, he proceeds to put his entire body through two tennis rackets. Not only does the action defy belief, but the execution is brilliant as he gets tangled up in his microphone lead, and pauses every time he meets an awkward physical position to crack another deadpan line.
A particularly hilarious act comes from Canadian-born Mooky, who is looking for love and invites an audience member to read her poetry, play the harmonica and duet with her. It all sounds simple enough, but is carried off with incredible panache. The drama is propelled by the audience member being asked to read lines written on various parts of Mooky’s attire, which makes for all manner of misunderstandings. It is, however, the softness of her voice that really nails the act, which is something that probably one in a million people could pull off.
The English Gents perform the most amazing acrobatics under the guise of pin-striped upper class twits. Their stiff upper lip then comes to the fore as they strip for England down to their union flag boxer shorts, and show that even when balancing half naked on top of each other they have the grace to doff their bowler hats! This act is already a firm favourite, but the individual performers then introduce new ones. One does an extreme Singing in the Rain routine (Gene Kelly, after all, never climbed a lamppost with only his hands or hung from it with just his shins). The other does a Japanese routine in which he perches on higher and higher stools, the accomplishment lying as much in the fact that he builds the tower from the position of already standing on it.
Another brilliant act is Cabaret Decadanse in which two puppeteers operate a Diana Ross puppet as she sings. Her body slinks from side to side and the animated way in which she purses her lips, turns her head, strokes her brow and blows kisses to the audience make us forget the relatively limited number of controls that the puppeteers must have at their disposal.
Performed in a sumptuous art nouveau-style mirrored tent, the atmosphere is electric from the off. Much of La Soirée’s charm lies in its intimacy, with the front row seated just inches from the tiny circular stage. While, however, the odd spectator might have their moment in the spotlight, this is a good natured show that makes the audience feel involved without in any way humiliating them. The performers poke fun at themselves far more than anyone watching, with Captain Frodo declaring ‘Isn’t it amazing what some people will do for a living?’. Similarly, in David O’Mer’s sensuous acrobatic bath act no-one is actually soaked. The fun derives from making the audience think that they might be at any moment.
Perhaps the only disappointment is that compère Miss Beehave’s numerous short routines simply reproduce what she has done in previous La Clique shows. This notices because of the frequency with which she appears, and as an immensely talented entertainer it would be good to see her develop some new turns. That aside, if you have already seen La Clique, half of the acts will probably be familiar to you. This, however, is simply a warning, because there is so much in each that it will be hard not to enjoy them just as much as the first time around. If, on the other hand, you have never seen anything quite like La Soirée before, a trip to the South Bank Big Top could not be more highly recommended.