Let’s imagine a cartoon villain. Pantomime season is upon us, so let’s make her as evil as we like. She wants to skin puppies and make a coat from them. The way she cackles makes us think it’s the cruelty that’s the point, not the coat. So let’s call her ‘Cruella’. Our Cruella has a very clear idea of what the modern world should be like. Serious. Ordered. Well-behaved. The population ought to be terrified. They’re definitely not the least bit queer. She’s convinced she speaks for the ‘silent majority’.
Enter: La Clique. Were invited to leave our troubles at the door of the Spiegeltent, up for the next couple of months in Leicester Square, and to put ourselves in the hands of assembled performers. They’re certainly not silent: competing with the buskers outside necessitates a blaring soundtrack that amps up the adrenaline and tells us we’re in for a thrilling injection of energy.
La Clique is heading towards a decade of performing, although the line-up has changed, and yet by bringing some of the best contemporary circus, burlesque and song to mainstream audiences, as here in the epicentre of London’s tourist zone, to me the group seems to be defiantly maintaining relevance. Acts range from the oddly wholesome, such as Chastity Belt’s love-drenched welcome-to-all song covers to David Pereira’s unashamed outrageousness, which has the ladies in the front row opposite me both covering their eyes and looking away! (More on them later.)
For me, though, the standout performances are by LJ Marles and Tara Boom.
The first performs two very different aerial strap routines: one combining breakdancing to an impossibly fast beat with mid-air spinning, another performed in a gender-bending leather get-up complete with glow-in-the-dark make-up and deadly heels. We discovered that heels can add a whole new dimension to strap work.
The latter, however, steals the show for me. Her first appearance, as an oddball popcorn usherette, brings utter chaos to the stage, which takes the entire twenty minutes of the interval to clean up. Let’s just say that the women across the way are horrified to get popcorn in their hair, and only become more shocked by what transpires next. It is daring, cheeky, unrepentant and, above all, hilarious. This is clowning for the twenty-first century. But then Boom’s return brings whirly, spacey vibes, and captivating foot juggling of parasols. The act is mesmerising, to the extent that there is barely a murmur of applause throughout: I find it hard to believe what I am seeing, with precision and balance that feels like witchcraft.
La Clique presents entertainment that is actually, well, entertaining. More than that, it is an antidote to the world offered by the Cruellas out there. Bawdy and queer and riotous and fun, it is everything that the austere miseries would deny that we can aspire to. Perhaps I’ve been ground down by the state of the world, and this has lowered my bar for joy, but I’m not afraid to say that this vision of the world wins me over completely. I love every minute.
Review by Ben Ross
The multi-award-winning La Clique features the world’s best of circus, comedy, and cabaret.
CHRISTMAS IN LEICESTER SQUARE
Leicester Square, London
8 November 2023 – 6 January 2024