Review: La Clique, London Hippodrome
Written for Culture Wars, 30.09.2008
Ignore the slightly plastic commercialism and the newly reopened Hippodrome seems an escapist paradise in the midst of economic instability. Encircled in lush red velvet and heavy with the aroma of popcorn, it has the atmosphere of a decadent elsewhere – perhaps prohibition America or Weimar Berlin – even before La Clique begins its carousel of freakish fantasies.
Filling the space, from a small circular stage, is a collection of the fabulous, the erotic and the gasp-worthy with a heavy lining of irony. Every spectacle that bursts through the velvet pays its dues to music hall, circus or burlesque traditions, while simultaneously subverting those expectations into something altogether smarter.
What a joy to see an audience turned topsy-turvy in its ogling of Ursula Martinez’s playful striptease when she coaxes a final empowering red hanky from her naked person. Or the eroticism at play in aerialist David O’Mer’s mix of the marvellous and the mundane, swinging from, over and through a bathtub in clinging jeans, like an cologne commercial brought to life. Or Captain Frodo – who has squeezed himself through a tennis racket, dislocating his shoulder in the process; who has stumbled and tumbled off the stage; who nightly throws caution and dignity to the wind – now perched on a six-foot makeshift tower of dented buckets, legs behind his head, encouraging us to follow our dreams.
For all the delightful mischief of Miss Behave’s regular interruptions, the show lacks a master of ceremonies to bring some semblance of order to the madness, especially once the novelty dwindles in the second-half. The grainy recorded sound and overpriced bar do nothing to add to the entertainment.
Nor, however, do they take too much away given the strengths of the acts parading before us, which provide a workout for the facial muscles as jaws drop and cheeks ache. There simply aren’t enough superlatives, but then, that’s the point.
Or, if you delve into the significance of Cabaret Decadense’s final piece – a gradually deconstructed puppet that boils down to the barest of essentials: three hands with fidgeting fingers – perhaps La Clique is nothing more than the crafty illusion of danger, difficulty and daring. Regardless, this is glorious, glamorous entertainment.
Photograph: La Clique