I saw La Soirée on my birthday last year and I’ve never laughed so much. I’m talking about the smile-so-hard-your-cheeks-hurt kind of laughter. It was a fantastic combo of daft slapstick and cheek-blushingly racy humour. And that’s all mixed in with some of the most jaw-dropping acrobatic and circus-style entertainment. For a day when you’re not too chuffed about celebrating the fact you’re another year into your 30s and getting further away from your 20s, it was just the tonic I needed. And it was a bloody good one at that.
A year on and the kooky La soirée bunch are back in their Speigeltent home on The Southbank for another winter season. So I couldn’t have been happier when I was invited to attend the media night performance last week. I accepted it without hesitation, eager to see which characters had moved on and which had returned for more sexy circus tricks.
One of the first characters to come back to the stage this time round was Captain Frodo, a hilarious double-jointed Norse magician who fully succeeds at making me wince and laugh simultaneously, as he squashes various limbs and body through the heads of two tennis racquets. Asher Treleaven, aka ‘Sexual gentleman’ is another familiar face who has most of the audience transfixed, as he reads a Mills & Boon style book in his hilariously creepy manner.
Some of the largest, and most memorable, characters were missing this year. It could be that some of the acts were on rotation and others were filling in for them. But I was sad for example, not to see Le Gateau Chocolat, the over-excitable, horny and larger-than-life opera singer in (lycra) drag, who is so funny, I still talk about him a year on. Nor did I see the acrobatic trapeze duo who do some rather saucy things with ping pong balls. Scotty the Blue Bunny – the compère who dresses in a blue lycra bunny outfit and harasses the crowds – was also missing. As was Ursula Martinez, the saucy lady who pulls silk hankies out of the most unimagineable places. In the buff.
But despite the non-appearance of this kooky lot, there were a few stalwarts who returned, who have been with them since the beginning in Edinburgh, 11 years ago. Plus, we were introduced to some equally brilliant new members of the La soirée family.
Cue Mario, Queen of the Circus, a juggling rockstar and reincarnation of Freddie Mercury who worked the crowds – and may I add, surfed the crowds – in spectacular form.
Then we had Mooky, a thoroughly awkward and unnerving character played by Gloria Rivard who at first, I was quite reticent about. Then, as her act unfurled, we watched her force a man onto the stage and lure him into a hilariously slapstick scene of romance, whereby he’s reading lines from various parts of her body. She’s brilliantly clever and at this point, the cheek-burning-laughter returned.
Other acts who wowed me were ‘aerial ballerina’ Bret Ffister and newbie Miss Frisky, who cleverly flickered the audience mood – using her outstanding singing voice – between intense emotion and more suprisingly daft humour. Despite a few faces on the front row looking astoundingly unethused, the emotion seemed heightened this year round, the audience (most of them) seemed more captivated and things were even more ridiculously clever. Take for example, Denis Lock, one half of the English Gents. His new ‘bubble act’ where he talks the audience through a number of ‘tricks’ using just bubbles and the smoke from his pipe, was beautiful and amazing at the same time. Then you have new act Melanie Chy – a martial master – who performs racy gymnastics on various parts of a motorbike. The whole two hours or so were brilliantly varied and provided real edge-of-your-seat stuff.
Last (and definitely not least) we have the English Gents who are quite possibly two of my favourites. Their sexy and incredible acrobatic balancing acts takes a physical strength that seems to go beyond what it humanly possible. And once again this year, Hamish performed his ‘Singing in the Rain’ and ‘Feeling Good’ pole act to whoops, enthusiastic cheers and standing ovations from the crowd. When you see it, you’ll see why.
There were others I haven’t mentioned, including the oh so graceful aerialist Yammel Rodriguez who is truly captivating, not just for her beauty, incredible body and presence, but of course for her eye-popping bendiness and physical skill.
The master of ceremonies announced at the start of La Soirée that we would leave our worries at the door. He’s 100% right. This circus production is rude, bonkers and the best entertainment you can see in London right now. Make it your priority to see it.
Until next time x