La Clique @ Roundhouse, London

After a phenomenally successful run at the Hippodrome, La Clique a motley collection of variety and circus acts returns to London for a second season, this time in a new home: Camdens cavernous Roundhouse.

While some of the original acts remain on the bill, the line up at La Clique tend to rotate on a fairly regular basis and there are a number of new additions.

So, while visitors to the Hippodrome run may well have seen Ursula Martinezs creative slight of hand routine and know exactly where she keeps her hankies, they wont have seen Marawa with her spray-on leopard print cat-suit and aerial hula hoop antics.
The show opens with an innuendo-speckled spiel from drag act Gerry Connolly, dressed up in full royal regalia as the Queen. More Queen of a different kind follows with Mario, a leather-clad Freddie Mercury tribute act with a marker pen moustache and an array of juggling balls and clubs.

Most of the acts blend humour with real technical skill. The Wau Wau Sisters trapeze routine would be impressive from a physical perspective even if they werent wearing 1980s wigs and expletive-sporting hotpants while dangling by their toes. More straightforward acrobatics come care of Sam Alvarez, writhing and spinning from the ceiling, suspended by chains, his shirt billowing open.

His slick and dramatic aerial stunts stand in stark contrast to the rather old fashioned mixture of comedy and magic tricks purveyed by Carl-Einar Hackner, a Hanson-haired, white jump-suited Swede who has a splendid routine where he confuses a bandana with a banana.

The funniest turn of the night comes from cabaret singer Meow Meow, a raven-haired hurricane with a suitably sultry voice and the air of a true diva; she stomps around the stage demanding drinks and assistance from the male members of the audience, some more willing than others.

Some of the acts are more polished than others and on more than one occasion a juggling ball or hula hoop proves disobedient but there is clearly copious skill involved (not to mention a degree of danger: on the previous night one half of roller-skating duo The Skating Willers ended up with a bloody gash on her arm). The rough-around-the-edges quality of the performances actually contributes to the appeal, to the sense that things could so easily tip over into disaster its part of the thrill.

The format began life in the Edinburgh Festival Spiegeltent before its Hippodrome residency – both somewhat less cave-like spaces – and in an attempt to make the Roundhouse a trifle more intimate, some of the balcony area has been curtained off but even though its still a sizeable arena, the lively atmosphere generated compensated for any loss of intimacy.

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