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Review: LA SOIRÉE – The Roundhouse, Camden

LA SOIRÉE
The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, London NW1 8EH

La Soirée is a heady mix of circus, cabaret and burlesque performances from some of the world’s top acts, many of whom have been performing together since 2004. With an ever-changing cast of around 30 performers, no two nights will ever be completely the same.

Set in the huge main performance space of the Roundhouse, all the action takes place on a tiny circular stage set in the centre of the auditorium (or above it, depending on the act), with the seating in circular rows around it, creating that familiar circus atmosphere that wowed us all so much in our youth.

This evening’s show opened with a performance by the larger than life Le Gateau Chocolat, filling every inch of the Roundhouse with his deeply wonderful baritone voice whilst mesmerising us with his eye-catching outfits; a fabulous party of sequins and figure-hugging lycra.

The unicycling, Freddie Murcury loving, leather-clad showman that is Mario: Queen Of The Circus (Clarke McFarlane) then wowed the audience by juggling balls off his feet and knees, amongst many other tricks. Refreshingly funny, yet strangely sexy, Mario’s jaw dropping performance of the night was carrying a member of the audience on his shoulders whilst riding around the tiny circular stage on his unicycle. If I have one complaint about the entire evening though, it was that Mario’s speaking voice sometimes seems to get lost in the lofty Roundhouse space – something that the otherwise excellent Sound Designer, Simon Barfoot, should take a look at.

Hot on Mario’s heels came Chris & Iris (Christopher Schlunk and Iris Pelz), a double act I have never heard of before tonight, with their amazingly acrobatic act – Schlunk balances the diminutive Pelz on his head, tosses her into the air, and generally throws her around like a rag doll. This thoroughly jaw-dropping act is a beautiful display of acrobatic skill, performed with seemingly effortless ease – a testament to the gracefulness and skill of both performers.

Nate Cooper next graced the stage with his excellent act, which I can only describe as roller-skating, machete-juggling, cross-dressing, comedy striptease on a pogo stick with bull horns. Very little can be said about this performance, other than that you really do have to see this to really believe what the chaotic and charming Cooper can do.

The mesmerisingly graceful Yulia
Pykhtina then captivated the entire audience with her exoticly erotic hula hooping act. The act, flawlessly designed and executed, was both magically spectucalar and captivatingly beautiful. Genuinely a pleasure to watch, the unfeasibly flexible Pykhtina completely reimagines what can and cannot be done with hula hoops and creates her own set of rules which are, quite simply, breathtaking. Willie Suddon’s excellent lighting design really came into its own during this performance, enhancing the beauty of the performance perfectly.

Mookie (Mookie Cornish) has all the appearance of a complete innocent, but she soon draws you in to her bizarre world of physical comedy with deceptively hilarious ease, making an audience member sing, dance and play music to her with her arrangement of cleverly placed cue cards. Clearly multi-talented, we see her again later, in the final act, playing piano to great skill as Le Gateau Chocolat closes the show.

Hugo Desmarais and Katharine Arnold’s amazing aerial acrobats, perfectly choreographed, enthralled and delighted the audience. This is their debut season as a duo, and I sincerely hope it is an act they will continue and grow. Desmarais’ sultry looks and finely chiselled body are a treat to watch, and in perfect balance to Arnold’s delicate and very feminine beauty. There is a genuine passion in their performance which shines through and enhances an already breathtaking display.

Having seen The English Gents amazing double act more than once (although it is truly one that I’d never tire of), it was a treat to watch two very different and completely original solo performances from these much sought-after acrobatic artists. First was an erotically charged poledance by Hamish McCann, which only heightened as he removed items of clothing whilst performing amazingly acrobatic feats of strength that left each of us gasping in awe. We were then treated to a drag artist, in full Japanese costume, who performed balancing acrobatics whilst singing, before the outfit was removed to reveal Denis Lock. He went on to perform an almost terrifying display of skill and strength, carefully balanced atop a stack of wooden chairs. As with their double act, each solo performance is a genuine and worthy tribute to the human body's strength.

The evening’s guest performance came from comedian David Armand, performing as Austrian interpretive dance artist Johann Lippowitz, well known throughout the internet world for his hilarious mime interpretation of Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn, and it is this very piece that we were treated to.

And finally, with a hint of sadness in my voice that this is their last ever season of performing together, tinged with delight at getting to watch this amazing act one more time, The Skating Willers (Jean-Pierre Poissonnet and Wanda Azzario) joined the stage. This skating duo, now legendary on the variety circuit after thirty years, have sealed their place in circus hall of fame with the most dazzling performance of speed spinning and gravity-defying, yet perfectly choreographed, skating you are ever likely to see. Catch them before it’s too late.

Overall, it is an evening that will leave you dazzled, breathless and inspired, with plenty to talk about for a long time. Genuinely one of my favourite evenings out, La Soirée is a spectacular and inspirational display of what the human body and mind is capable of.

Acts change daily and so, whilst you may not see the same performers we have reviewed, you’re still in for an evening of genuinely outstanding entertainment. Other acts appearing at La Soirée include Paul Capsis, Captain Frodo, Omar Cortes, Ursula Martinez, David O'Mer, Jess Love, Cabaret Decadanse, Brett Pfister, Miss Behave, The Wau Wau Sisters, Chris Iris, Camille O'Sullivan, Marawa, Amy G, Carl-Einer Häckner, Susannah Martinez, Meow Meow, Erna Sommer and Gerry Connolly.

The circus really has never looked so good.

Produced by Brett Haylock, Mark Rubinstein and Mick Perrin, La Soirée plays at the Roundhouse Theatre in Camden until 29 January. Tickets £15-£65 from www.roundhouse.org.uk

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