Christmas in Leicester Square
Reviewed – 18th November 2021
“Perfectly gaudy, camp, hilarious, breath-taking, and an absolute tonic for this mess of a year we’re all having”
What I wouldn’t give to sit in on the Underbelly’s La Clique audition process. “Next up we’ve got a pink-mulleted saxophonist with a very strong pelvic thrust, after that a laderhosen-loving hoola hooper, and before lunch let’s try and squeeze in the burlesque act who takes her clothes off inside a giant balloon.”
Except of course some of these acts have been performing with La Clique for years, so the audition is probably more like a phone call to a family member to see if they’re coming home for Christmas. And what a family! You’ve got a couple of acrobats, an aerialist, a fire-breathing sword swallower to name only a few, all accompanied by a stellar live band, including our pink-mulleted saxophonist, Leo P.
Creative producer and director David Bates is an expert curator, combining brute skill with heaps of whimsy and showmanship. Each act marries a fairly classic circus skill with rock n’ roll energy and lashings of good humour. The Skating Willers III, for example, are an acrobatic roller-skating duo, spinning around on a terrifyingly small platform, Steph attaching herself with increasing jeopardy around Pierre’s neck as she twists herself into various pretzel-like shapes. They begin with Pierre standing with the band singing Michael Bublé’s cover of ‘Feeling Good’- a double dose of crooning cheese. But Steph struts on stage in the middle of the song in a barely-there checked skirt and suspenders, takes the mic and says, “Fuck Bublé”, collecting Pierre and gliding down on their skates to the front of the stage for a far more entertaining use of his skills. It’s irreverent and cheeky, and yet still showing incredible mastery and prowess. And that’s pretty much how it goes for the evening- we’re laughing, whooping, gasping and gaping in equal measure for two solid hours.
Our host for the evening, Bernie Dieter, is suitably fabulous, making multiple outrageous costume changes, from a gold shimmering jumpsuit, spiked shoulder pads, gold curtain tassels and silver sequined stiletto boots, to an oversized faux fur coat covered in “furry nipple tassels, or tiny furry penises”, she’s not sure which. She is the thread that ties the acts together, adding to that genuinely familial feel which makes this show particularly special. All the acts are also each other’s stage hands, throwing props on stage and hiking up the rigging by hand when someone needs to fly.
A surprising number of acts turn into quasi-strip shows, so, like, don’t bring your kids. But otherwise, I can’t think what else you could possibly require from a Christmas show. Perfectly gaudy, camp, hilarious, breath-taking, and an absolute tonic for this mess of a year we’re all having.
Reviewed by Miriam Sallon
Photography by Craig Sugden
Christmas in Leicester Square until 8th January
More shows reviewed by Miriam this year: