La Clique @ Hippodrome, London

Having heard many good things about La Clique, international touring legend and darling of the Edinburgh Fringe, my expectations of this were pretty high – and I wasn’t disappointed. I now understand why this fusion of circus arts, burlesque and cabaret has become such a sensation.

The London Hippodrome once staged one of Houdini’s great escapes and was home to a water circus with an 100,000 litre pool, so it has a history of indulging the absurd. It seems an apt home for this extraordinary show.

One of the most enjoyable of La Clique‘s acts are the lip synching puppets of Montreal’s flamboyant Cabaret Decadanse and the show opens with a booty shaking black diva marionette rising out of the darkness while singing her heart out and ends with a gaudy grand dame performing burlesque striptease, that takes her handlers right down to their bare knuckles.

If you saw Miss Behave, at her eponymous Variety Nighty at the Roundhouse earlier this year, she is a La Clique founding mother and performs many of the same routines in her trademark eye wateringly tight red rubber dress, and will make you shudder, especially when she feeds the leg of a stool down her gullet.

The freak that stole the show for me was Norwegian Captain Froddo, the contortionist. Watching him dislocate his shoulder to get his body through a tennis racket will inevitably make you wince; but later, perched on his bucket tower with his legs behind his head he delivers a follow-your-dreams sermon that marks him out as a true savant.

The fearsome Ursula Martinez goes for full frontal nudity in her disappearing hankerchief trick and this provocative magic show/striptease left some on the front row shell shocked, and possibly not able to engage with the concept of performance art as activism.

To me hula hoops are potato-based snacks, not a means of seduction, but the glorious display of beauty, acrobatics and skill from Russian hula-hoopise Yulia Pikhtina meant she had the audience eating out of her hand by the end of her whirling, twirling showcase.

But if Yulia, did it for the guys, aerial artist David O’Mer, is the super buff stuff of female fantasy and his act was like an old school Levi’s ad. Writhing, sopping wet out of a bath tub in his faded blue denims, he cavorts, twisting and turning above your head. Never mind a bath, most people- straight or gay-needed a cold shower after this aquactic, erotic interlude.

In a world full of get famous quick shows the uniqueness of these acts and the dedication to pursuing these specialist arts is inspirational. These performers are icons, models of integrity, purveyors of the bizarre, and creators of one of the best night’s out in London right now.

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