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Theatre Review (London): La Soiree at the Roundhouse

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Theatre doesn’t really do it as a word to describe La Soiree, now playing at the Roundhouse, Camden.

“Edgy late-night adult cabaret circus” is about the best description I can manage. Certainly it sits perfectly in the tent-like, circular Roundhouse and “clown” Mario (one of the clear stars of the show) manages a joking reference to the railway origins of the structure while playing a juggling, unicycle-riding “reincarnation” of Freddie Mercury. With a 10pm start and regular exhortations to stroll over to the bar whenever you feel like it, this is certainly relaxed entertainment.

There are clearly circus elements — the Canadians Hugo Desmarais and Katharine Arnold, “aerial artists” who stage a sultry duet that doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination in the “cage” swaying above the audience whilst being highly athletic and very good at what they do, certainly fit that model.

So do the equally physically good veterans “The Skating Willars” — although the politics of their staging, and presentation, leave a bit of a nasty taste in the mouth – not my favourites.

And the German acrobatic duo Chris and Iris – just as good as anything you’re likely to see at the Olympics, and a lot more creative.

But there’s a lot of comedy here that’s rather more cabaret. One of the standout acts was Nate Cooper, a Charlie Chaplin tap-dancing on the edge of disaster on roller-skates while juggling machetes.

And drawing lots of laughs on the night I was there, while taking audience participation to possibly new heights, was Mooky Cornish – who as a Canadian completes the international flavour.

If there was a weakness it was in the compering – there was a lack of pizzazz and sense that the man in the trilby was really enjoying this show and trying to draw us into it. But perhaps it will get better as the show beds in.

Just a word of warning – if you don’t fancy being the subject of some of that serious audience participation (only a few will be selected, but they’ll never forget the experience), don’t sit in the chairs arrayed around the central stage.

And also be aware that a range of acts circulate through the show, so if you go you may not see all the acts mentioned here – not surprising really, since the more physical acts certainly must have a pretty high injury/exhaustion rate!

La Soiree is at the Roundhouse until January 29, and is also starting at the Sydney Opera House on January 6. (One can only assume a very good stage magician is involved in that transition…)

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About Natalie Bennett

Natalie blogs at Philobiblon, on books, history and all things feminist. In her public life she's the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales.