Circus Review







La Clique Productions, Chocolate Factory Productions, Mark Rubinstein and Mick Perrin

La Clique



David O' Mer - 'Bath Boy'

The Hippodrome

Now extended until April 19, 2009






A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!


The Hippodrome is, without doubt, the perfect environment in which to house this eclectic, international blend of cabaret and contemporary circus, as the building itself, which boasts over one hundred years in operation, was originally modelled after a circus ‘big top,’ albeit one offering infinitely more possibilities. Given the venue’s  ever changing history, from circus venue to variety hall to disco and most recently, back to its roots again, the Hippodrome’s many bars, flexible performance and viewing spaces offer such a carnival atmosphere, that visitors are bound to find themselves feeling entertained even before the show itself actually begins.

The programme for La Clique features a tattoo heart pierced with flowers on its cover, a fitting symbol for the show’s pithy, imaginative mix of sweet, sometimes saucy, often awe inspiring feats of acrobatics, balancing, juggling, hoop twirling, derivatives of sword-swallowing and quirky humour. Conceived and created by Spiegeltent International in 2004 and, in its first incarnation, staged in The Famous Spiegeltent itself, one of the last remaining Flemish mirror tents, at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, La Clique, a show which is continually undergoing transformations, has gone on to play 20 seasons across the globe since.

Our colour coded tickets were transformed into wristbands as we came through the doors, and we were told to pick a seat in the unreserved section on the floor. We took our places in folding chairs facing the raised performance area, opposite those in the ‘posh seats’ (tables and chairs with waitress service) across from us on the other side of the stage. Popcorn sellers resembling carnival barkers or river boat gamblers in their waistcoats, hats and armbands hawked their wares among the crowd under strings of white light bulbs as a brass band version of the theme from ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’ set the mood. Tawdry tints of orange and blue fell on a ‘Ringmaster’ resembling Bruce Willis as he stepped up onto the performance area and advised the audience not to ‘be shy’ in relation to the Hippodrome’s many bars during the performance, or enthusiastic responses to the acts they liked, as the production we were about to see was ‘that kind of show.’  An atmosphere of cheerful camp prevailed as a blue glow spotlighted the open curtain and Cabaret Decadanse emerged.

Two talented puppeteers from Montreal, Serge DesLauriers and Enock Turcotte accompanied their first incredibly animated, larger than life creation onstage, acting as ‘her’ onstage entourage during her ‘act’. With her chocolate coloured, magnificently made up face, fluffy white Afro, and spiral spring body with its hinged, chiffon draped arms, she is a diva designed for maximum flexibility and, as it happened, an incredible amount of funkability too, thanks to her puppeteers and creators’ high spirited choreography. Dancing to a disco version of ‘If You Could Read My Mind,’ which was perfectly lip synched by their diva, DesLauriers and Turcotte’s fabulous female swooped over the crowd and crooned to such captivating extremes that they and, she nearly brought the house down in their attempts to warm up the audience for the next act, my disputable favourite of the evening, The English Gents.



Cabaret Decadanse

In reality Denis Lock and Hamish McCann hail from Australia, but  nevertheless they’ve got their Monty Phythonesque, bowler hat, pin-striped suit, socks on garters, stiff upper lip routine down to a hilarious science, with their own uniquely spectacular twists intertwined into their ‘how do they do that’ mix. Their jaw dropping acrobatic feats are wonderfully competitive with their superbly, expressive faced comedic flair. I’ve seen a lot of circuses in my time, with countless acrobats in them, but these fellows are without question, the most dynamically skilled I’ve ever seen. Not to give anything away, but their umbrella trick is a moment of pure circus magic. It’s a dead cert that once you’ve watched Lock and McCann, a.k.a. The English Gents strut and stretch their impressive stuff, you will never think of Pomp and Circumstance, or Union Jacks in quite the same way again!



The English Gents

Miss Behave, who recently hosted a group sell-out cabaret show, Miss Behave’s Variety Night at the Roundhouse provided some absurdist moments of comedy after this tough act to follow, wriggling atop the grand piano onstage like a blown up Betty Boop, with her red leather, white in the pleats low cut pencil dress and bell-hop hat on her short curly-Q-ed hair, before moving on to jibe with the crowd down front. Among many other peculiar talents, exhibited intermittently throughout the course of the show, Behave exhibits a peculiarly apt proficiency in sword, or in this case, scissor swallowing. As she would quip later on in relation to her enjoyably off-beat act, it’s ‘not how,’ she does what she does, but ‘why?’  


Miss Behave

Clark McFarlane’s comically narcissistic character Mario, ‘Queen’ of the Circus, a small wiry fellow, with a greasepaint black moustache appropriately donned in black leather and motorcycle cap, addressed the audience as ‘Thursday Swingers,’ claiming that when it comes to love, persistence pays, especially if you ‘go out to bars every night.’ It’s his physical smallness and pseudo wide-boy nerve which helps make his act so funny and his varied circus skills, demonstrated to his character’s idol Freddie Mercury’s (and Queen’s) music which make it even more entertaining. McFarlane is a great juggler, performing feats I’ve never witnessed before in relation to that particular art as well as balancing astride a unicycle while juggling and pouring forth streams of seemingly, ad lib jokes and spontaneous actions, such as body-surfing atop the crowd down front to one of his favourite Queen songs, ‘We Are the Champions.’


Mario, ‘Queen’ of the Circus

Incredible Captain Frodo from Norway, is just that, incredible. As a double-jointed freak of nature, Frodo makes the most of his inherently warped condition, pulling his lean, lanky body through a couple of open faced tennis rackets, cheerily entangling himself in wires, furniture and gags galore in the process. Some of his seemingly dumb remarks, such as, ‘Is my hair looking ok?’ were, the way he uttered them while engaged in performing his unbelievable feats of contortion simply priceless. Frodo, if that is his real name, (none is listed in the programme), is the son of a famous Norse magician, if that is true! One never knows with Frodo, though that is definitely one of his charms. His ability to hold the crowd in the palm of his hand was unrivalled to the point that upon his return to the stage in the second half of the show for an amazing balancing feat, again to unbelievable extremes, smiles were instantly generated all round.


Captain Frodo

Berlin’s David O’Mer, who originally trained as a gymnast has been with La Clique for three years, and it’s easy to see why his act is so popular, as ‘Bath Boy’ which he calls his performance is simply breath-taking! As O’Mer emerges from his onstage bathtub, in soaking wet jeans, like a quintessential Levi man, and begins his aerial ballet, in conjunction with two thick black cords, one on either side, which he raises himself up and down, and flies on, like a kind of circus angel, the audience is instantly mesmerised, while those sitting down front collectively taking cover beneath a large, transparent plastic cloth. O’ Mer’s grace and agility are very striking to witness in practice and his dynamically original approach to what has traditionally been a somewhat overlooked circus act, performed via ropes twirled by assistants on the ground over the sawdust in big tops and/or arena floors the world over is both unique and unforgettable.

Ursula Martinez of ‘Spain via Croydon’ provides the show’s definitive nod to burlesque with her out of the ordinary ‘hide the hanky’ buttoned up to bare act. Beginning by stuffing her ubiquitous red cloth into her palm in a bog standard vanishing act, Martinez reels her unsuspecting audience in, as she progressively hides her hanky in more and more unlady like places, ending with the end of her own anatomy, before gleefully skipping along the front of the stage in the altogether, exaggeratedly winking at male audience members and nudging the air as she goes. A clothed performance in the second act further surprised the audience in a way I couldn’t reveal without revealing more than a mere shedding of clothes could do.

Yulia Pikhtina of the Ukraine was the lone performer to only appear in the second half of the show and given her unique ability to twirl not one, but four iridescent hula-hoops on various parts of her body, at varying speeds and, at times, in different directions at once, her mesmerising act was something to behold. In addition to Pikhtina’s highly skilled feats at her specifically tailored act, her Bjork like beauty was a feature which seemed to further endear her to many of her obviously entranced hetro-male fans.
Most of the fabulous, mind boggling performances I’ve mentioned above took place before the interval. Afterwards, in part two, there were still more intriguing acts, often different from those originally staged, from those who’d performed in the first portion of the show, along with the aforementioned hoop twirling spectacle from Pikhtina, all designed to fire the imagination and curiosity, and elevate one out of the doldrums or should I say, levitate?



La Clique

The Hippodrome, Leicester Square, London WC2

Box Office number: 020 7907 7097


Performances excluding Friday and Saturday at 8pm    £10*, £15, £25, £29.50

Friday and Saturday at 8pm £10*, £15, £30, £35
* Standing room

VIP table seating from £45 (£55 Friday and Saturday at 8pm)

Booking until Sunday February 1st 2009

Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm

Sunday at 6pm

Late night performances:
Saturdays at 10.30pm from October 11th
Fridays at 10.30pm from October 31st

Extra performances on:
Tuesday December 9th at 8pm
Tuesday December 16th at 8pm
Tuesday December 23rd at 8pm
Tuesday December 30th at 8pm




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