Tag Archives: LJ Marles

La Clique

La Clique


Christmas in Leicester Square

La Clique

La Clique

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



La Clique

Christmas in Leicester Square until 8th January


More shows reviewed by Miriam this year:
Aaron And Julia | ★★½ | The Space | September 2021
Tarantula | ★★★★ | Online | April 2021
My Son’s A Queer But What Can You Do | ★★★½ | The Turbine Theatre | June 2021
Lava | ★★★★ | Bush Theatre | July 2021
Reunion | ★★★★★ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | May 2021
The Narcissist | ★★★ | Arcola Theatre | July 2021
White Witch | ★★ | Bloomsbury Theatre | September 2021
Tender Napalm | ★★★★★ | King’s Head Theatre | October 2021
The Sugar House | ★★★★ | Finborough Theatre | November 2021
A Merchant of Venice | ★½ | Playground Theatre | November 2021


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Bohemia – 5 Stars


Black Cat: Bohemia

Underbelly Festival Southbank

Reviewed – 30th August 2018


a true celebration of cabaret and circus that bursts like a champagne cork, soaking up the audience in a spray of glory


“The Black Cat” has been slinking into sites across London for over a decade now. Venues as diverse as they are decadent. Taking its name from the original ‘Le Chat Noir’, the first French cabaret show, they describe themselves as purveyors of dark and daring cabaret; bringing together the cream of dancers, singers and comics across the capital.

Their latest show, “Black Cat: Bohemia”, adds highly skilled circus performers into the mix; and the show, running at the Spiegeltent on London’s South Bank, transports you into an absinthe-soaked underworld somewhere between Belle Époque Montmartre and Berlin’s Kit Kat Club. It is a heady cocktail of beauty and talent, a gorgeous concoction of circus skills, comedy and risqué artistry.

The flame-headed diva and songstress, Miss Frisky, is the emcee for the night. Opening with a well-known quote from Oscar Wilde – “Lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper aim of Art” – she delights us with a potted history of ‘Bohemia’ before introducing the acts. She is a star in her own right: a big voice on the cabaret scene, but when she sings her voice can melt the heart too. With complete command of the audience I could have easily listened to her bawdy banter all evening, but she knows exactly when to pull back and let the performers take centre stage.

It is a night at the circus like no other from a shadowy band of show-folk who combine flair and virtuosity with self-deprecating humour. Jo Moss (Slippin’ Jo) is first to roll up, literally, in his cyr wheel. Not only setting the wheels in motion he sets the bar for the evening, and we know we’re in for some high-class acts. There is the delightful double-act of the ‘knaves’: Nicolas Jelmoni and LJ Marles. Yet it’s when they tear themselves away from each other that they truly shine: Marles as he reaches the heights of the big top with his aerial tension straps, while Jelmoni’s svelte acrobatics are more earthbound but no less breath-taking – particularly during a jaw-dropping dance duet with Charlotte O’Sullivan. Combining a cool, feline detachment with enticing sexiness, O’Sullivan defies the laws of gravity in the hands of partner Jelmoni.

Similarly, Katharine Arnold (aka Danger K) swings from the rafters in her aerial hoop in a daredevil display that, like all the evening’s performers, is enhanced with a narrative that emerges from their understated and unflashy acting abilities. Staggering onstage with a bottle of vodka in hand, Arnold makes a convincing drunk, a pretence that she takes up into the air with her making the performance that much more thrilling. “Just because something is untrue – does that make it any less real?” asks Miss Frisky in an echo to her opening address about truth and art.

But there is no doubting the reality of the flames that blaze through Hayley Harvey-Gomez’s (Missy Fatale) routine as she merges bursts of burlesque with fire-eating in an explosive fashion. Mention must also be made of Leon Fagbemi, ‘The Maestro’, who unfortunately sustained an injury at the outset of his act, yet with utter professionalism incorporated it into the routine, seamlessly cutting it short and exiting with a dignity that could convince the audience that nothing untoward happened. We wish him a speedy recovery.

This is an unforgettable show, underscored by the carnival stomp of the house band. It is a true celebration of cabaret and circus that bursts like a champagne cork, soaking up the audience in a spray of glory. Unmissable.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans


Black Cat: Bohemia

Underbelly Festival, Southbank until 30th September



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