Tag Archives: Underbelly

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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Brat Kids Carnival – 3.5 Stars

Brat Kids Carnival

Brat Kids Carnival

Christmas in Leicester Square

Reviewed – 17th November

★★★½

“Monkey’s volcanic energy in particular helped to keep engagement at a maximum”

 

Brat Kids Carnival is certainly not lacking in atmosphere – in a gorgeous circus-tent-esque structure in the midst of all the Christmas stalls in Leicester Square, it’s easy to get swept up in the spirit of the festivities. And although the show’s sizzling energy means it never dampens the mood, it also doesn’t always match the expectations that its surrounding grotto creates.

Brat Kids Carnival establishes Monkey (played, incidentally, by American entertainer Mr Monkey) as the MC of the proceedings, with assistance from Vicky Falconer Pritchard as the Party Panda. Even before the show starts, they interact with the audience and play a game of cat and mouse around the space; they made for an endearing pair, and Monkey’s volcanic energy in particular helped to keep engagement at a maximum. The cast is rounded out by Luke Hubbard, Crystal Stacey, and Rowan Thomas who make up the various circus acts that take place.

Unfortunately, not all of acts feel fully developed. The first is a giant purple alien singing, which while initially entertaining, never feels like it expands on its premise, and as a result the attention of the audience noticeably waned during the latter half of the act. This was not an uncommon theme, and also occurred chiefly in a hula-hooping act. Thankfully, Monkey and Party Panda’s interludes help to perk up the audience, with one segment where a child had to throw a piece of banana into Monkey’s mouth proving to be a comic goldmine.

A number of acts were also hugely entertaining – Hubbard and Thomas as a pair of flamingos trying to outdo each other was immense fun, as the act was developed beyond just a showcase of skills into a story, with reams of playfulness and character. This also stood out due to being the only double act in the show – it would’ve been great to have seen more instances where the cast interacted in the acts, and to allow mini-narratives to organically grow in this way.

Brat Kids Carnival’s design is joyous – backlighting the performers as they arrive on stage provides a sense of grandeur, which is only exacerbated by the pulsating music and magnificent costumes. It’s a shame that the content of the acts feels largely undercooked, as every other aspect is primed for top-quality family fun.

 

Reviewed by Tom Francis

Photography by Jane Hobson

 


Brat Kids Carnival

Christmas in Leicester Square until 30th December

 

 

 

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