Review | La Clique returns to London putting more than just a smile on people's faces

The crown jewel of alternative cabaret returns to London with a new band of talented troublemakers


Words: Tim Heap

After a decade away, famed variety show La Clique has returned to London’s West End for the festive season to bring a dose of mixed-genre magic to cheering crowds in Leicester Square’s grand Spiegeltent.

The show, created by producer and pianist David Bates, first debuted in 2004 at the Edinburgh Fringe, and over the years has continued to bring the most creative, boundary-pushing performance artists together.

Welcoming the audience into her wonderful world of misfits and miscreants is host with the absolute most, Bernie Dieter.

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While the acts she introduces often wow with feats of strength and skill, Dieter herself is a master of singing and comedy, at one point preying on male members of the audience to help deliver her punchlines, to great effect.

Her black sequined and feathered dress, black bob wig and exaggerated make up are matched by her dark and filthy sense of humour, delivered with all the pep and pizzazz of a well-seasoned cabaret star.

Over around 90 minutes of performance, set to a live band and vocals by Kelly Wolfgramm, the Spiegeltent’s stage is trod by all manner of artists and acrobats.

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First to impress is the charming and gentle artistry of Florian Brooks, the “Fred Astaire of juggling”, whose act involves a complex routine using all manner of barware, from champagne flutes to drinks trays and ice buckets.

Charlie Wheeler’s topless Cyr Wheel routine adds a little sex appeal to the first half’s proceedings, but feels limited in scope due to the size of the stage he has to work with.

Similarly, aerial artist Stephen Williams’ wet-and-wild bathtub performance titillates to an extent but doesn’t go far enough to flood my basement.

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New York daredevil Heather Holliday’s two segments — sword-swallowing and fire-breathing — thrill and shock in equal measure, with genuine hands-over-eyes and I-can’t believe-she-just-did-that moments.

Confident and cocky, she delights in the audience reaction, almost eye-rolling as she plunges an LED-lit sword down her throat.

Of course, a subversive variety show isn’t complete without a bit of nudity, and here it’s provided by France’s Got Talent finalist David Pereira in a comedy shaving routine.

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Limber though he is, once the towel drops, David needs an extra hand reaching those hard-to-get areas down under, and enlists an audience member to help him out.

With the amount of shaving foam flying around, let’s just say some people went home with more than a smile on their face…

Rating: 3.5*

La Clique plays at Christmas in Leicester Square’s Spiegeltent until 4 January.