Christmas in Leicester Square
DEC 6, 2023
photo credit © THE NEW CURRENT
Since their debut at the Edinburgh Fringe, La Clique has won an Olivier Award and toured the world, delighting audiences with their unique blend of circus-come-cabaret shows. La clique is a celebration of the weird, the outsider, the stranger-than-strange type of performer that would stand out anywhere else, but here they are amongst friends. There is a great deal of passion, love, and delicate care in how La Clique realises their show, which is, through all the bluster, wildness, and nakedness, a show that has so much heart it leaves you in awe.
With us now in the full grip of the Christmas season, it means that places like Leicester Square become unrecognisable as markets and food stalls take over the place, and Spiegeltent, this beautifully stunning wooden 1920s-style venue, opens. The Spiegeltent is now a fixture at many of the world's biggest arts festivals and offers a really unique opportunity for audiences to take a step back in time and experience performances in an old-school way.
Taking your seats with music blearing over the speakers, for just a moment you get that real 20s vibe—not hard considering the setting—and something really profound overtakes you. La Clique’s USP has been their difference—this weirdly wonderful world they’ve been able to create through platforming talent that both amazes and stuns audiences. And in today's cultural and political climate, La Clique is certainly providing an antidote to all the noise. There's a show that is a celebration of their difference—these otherworldly oddities that don’t look to conform but instead welcome outsiders into their delectably wildly original world.
The mix of circus acrobatics, music, and puppetry gave the show substance— the 'something for everyone’ that offered enough of each style of performance to really engage the audience. Some, like Cabaret Décadanse from Montreal, had three numbers that fantastically showcased their funny and engaging puppetry, and The Show Off from the musical The Drowsy Chaperone was their strongest piece. I’ll bet the house that audiences will be searching for the song on their way out; we did, and I plan on having it played at my funeral.
A special notice was given for La Clique original member Yulia Pykhtina from Ukraine, and when she was announced, there really, genuinely did seem to be a change in the atmosphere as Yulia took to the stage. With grace that was careful and serine Pykntina performance was captivating, there was history here, a unique story told through the body, physicality, and hula hoops. Pykntina really is a class act—someone who walks onto stage with a sophistication that is captivating to behold. Performances are interspersed with musical numbers from Chastity Belt. Her voice, rich, experienced, and heartfelt, provides a perfect cushion between the circus and cabaret.
It can’t be cabaret without some tongue-in-cheek humour and innuendo, and that came from Spain's David Pereira, LJ Marles, and Tara Boom. The reaction to these artists from those sitting in the front row became a show-within-a-show for me. Some of the patrons in the front took some exceptions to popcorn (Boom) or shaving foam (Pereira) hitting them, and some took even more exceptions once they discovered how Boom was going to salt her freshly popped corn.
The company shows that there is something pretty exceptional about never wanting to be branded as being 'normal', and this is, personally, brilliantly captured by Tara Boom. The first time we meet Boom, the term ‘Hot Mess’ is a pretty accurate example. The whole character, popcorn usherette, is manic, unrelenting, and takes you to places you didn’t think were possible; it was wild and delicious. And the moment she tastes the popcorn and realises it needs salting, one loses their breath with laughter. But then Boom comes back in a way that contrasts so deeply with the first time we saw her. As the curtains are pulled back to reveal Boom, now in a pure white pants suit, the only connection to her pervious character is the wealth of colour make-up surrounding her eyes.
"Walking onto stage, Boom conveys the presence of someone, much like her fellow performers, who only need to show you their performances to let you know why they do what they do."
A little wink and a devilishly innocent smile make me gasp. How could Boom top her first act? She does so by doing something so unexpectedly beautiful that it’s impossible for your heart not to melt. Walking onto stage, Boom conveys the presence of someone, much like her fellow performers, who only need to show you their performances to let you know why they do what they do. As Boom sits with her back to the base of the chair, a ballad version of Rhianna’s classic Umbrella starts to play. Sometimes words lose you when you’re watching something that at first is unexpected and then leads into something drenched in passion and beauty that leaves you quite genuinely in awe. For the 4 or 5 minutes that Boom performed this wonder, juggling several parasols with her feet, I could feel my heartbeat.
Performers like La Clique are always magical because the audience gets to witness people doing exactly what they want to do and how they want to do it. You feel this tight bond between the company; they’re a company of individuals who have found each other, and in finding a home, they’ve found a family that has no limits to their creativity or their vision. There is nudity, and the boundaries of taste are pushed slightly, but there is no vulgarity; there is no sense of rudeness or dirtiness, but rather a sense of freeing and lowering your inhibitions, sitting back, and embracing the wildness.