The Pick - La Soirée

December 1, 2011

Credit: Perou

La Soirée

Roundhouse, London, until 29 January

Nate Cooper arrives on stage on out-of-control roller skates, slipping and sliding in every direction, never managing to find a secure footing. At first it appears to be a performance of comic ineptitude, but then he takes a set of machetes out of a box and prepares for a juggling act that threatens to prove fatal for spectators in the front row.

This plan is mercifully abandoned when an assistant brings on an improbable horned pogo stick. It looks challenging enough, but Cooper is determined to make things even more difficult for himself by stripping down to a ball gown, donning a towering pair of platform heels and tentatively climbing on to the stick. As he hops around, the knives flash briefly through the air without causing loss of life or limb.

Dark, lithe and cat-like, Ukrainian hula-hooper Yulia Pykhtina contorts her body dramatically and sets four hoops spinning at different speeds and angles, turning herself into something like an animated Olympic logo. And Mario, Queen of the Circus juggles, pays tribute to Freddie Mercury and offers his reflections on life. Although he is of indeterminate nationality ("Can you understand what I'm saying? This accent can be very hard - to do"), he claims to be "famous for philanthropy and promiscuity" and is full of advice for hapless spectators. Spotting one young couple, he takes a sniff and declares: "It's the smell of new love. You must never lose that smell. You must both find somebody new by the end of next week."

Equally humiliated is the young man who is plucked from the audience by Canadian comedian Mooky, and then prompted by cue cards hidden on stage or attached to her hands, hair and other parts of her body to enter into romantic dialogue with her. By the time he has read out phrases such as "I want to express my love by playing the mouth organ for you" and "I really like to sing", he is looking distinctly worried about what further indignities might be in store.

The rest of the line-up for La Soirée, the Roundhouse's dramatic Christmas cabaret, includes a suave, bare-chested acrobat swinging around a lamp post and mixed-sex couples of roller skaters and trapeze artists. Even more fun are the enormous Chris and his diminutive partner Iris, whom he lifts up, balances on his hand and flings around the stage as easily as a kitten. Le Gateau Chocolat is a mountainous black baritone dressed in stretch Lycra and fabulous party dresses, with a repertoire ranging from Puccini to the Eurythmics.

With a combination of cross-dressing, beautiful bodies, camp waspishness and clumsiness masking supreme athleticism, La Soirée mingles circus, burlesque and variety. It makes a hell of an evening out.

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