LA SOIREE South Bank SE1

There’s a towering, assertive giant gay blue rabbit in skintight Spandex, a stripping trapeze artiste hurling garments at the front row, a sadfaced clown who sings Cohen’s Hallelujah like a depressed angel; there is juggling and jokes and a superbly rude faux-baffled reading of a Mills and Boon sex scene. There are brief acts and sustained ones, a provocative diablo, a worrying contortionist, Ursula Martinez’ legendary hanky turn, hulahooping, quick-change transformations and a bathtub aerialist. And dammit, here’s the blue bunny again: lurking in the back stalls of the gorgeous mirrored Spiegeltent…why? Who knows.
I have loved these evenings ever since the first, in Edinburgh in 2004; call it new variety, or performance-cabaret, or circus burlesque, or whatever takes your fancy: it has been riotously successful, giving a platform to individual acts and forging an identity both pleasingly louche and unthreateningly friendly. That last quality is important, because not everyone is a natural nightclubber. As for the tag “not recommended for children” and the nudity warning, it must be said that its sexiness is not of the dead-eyed Soho variety. It is so joyfully self-mocking that I would very happily take a young teen (actually, it could be a useful corrective to the dreary porn they all see online).

And goodness, it’s fun. Partly because under the production of Brett Haylock the two-hour show is immaculately paced. This matters: I have been to similar events (with some of the same artistes) where heavyhanded ringmastering and a tolerance of iffy, slow-moving banter took much of the joy out of it. Here, however, there is no self-satisfied ringmaster but a swift, skilful segue of one act to the next, varying between the mainly funny and the breathtakingly acrobatic. It’s brilliant.



Aficionados and world travellers should know some names which headline this anniversary London run: Puddles Pity Party, an astonishing voice, is the big glum singing pierrot; Tanya Gagné of the Wau Wau sisters of NYC strips on the trapeze, you might see The English Gents, or David and Fofo from Sweden who spit ping-pong-balls. And from Australia Asher Treleaven is our Mills -and-Boon interpreter. His sad outraged “No – that’s not a Thing!” stays with me still.



Top night out, essence of joyful skill. I’m going again, on proper paid-for tickets: that’s how good it is.

+44 (0)20 7960 4200 To 11 Jan

rating: five   4 Meece Ratingthe fifth being a Merry-Christmouse  libby, christmas cat


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