The beautiful Aldwych Theatre is hosting a winter season of La Soirée giving the cabaret/circus show a Moulin Rouge-style setting including on stage cafe-style chairs and tables. But where Moulin Rouge is suggestive and saucy, La Soirée sometimes leaves nothing to the imagination and occasionally pushes the boundaries of good taste - you have been warned.
There is plenty to enjoy and entertain including some vertigo-inducing acrobatics (but don't sit too far back in the stalls or you'll miss some of it). It is the feats of dexterity, strength and balance - and some of the puppetry - which make this a mesmerising and exciting show to watch. Some of it you may have seen before but there is plenty of stuff you won't have, for example former gymnasts Leon and Klondi defy gravity with jaw-dropping balances at seemingly impossible angles and Michelle Clark's hula hoop act was especially clever and spell-binding to watch.
It was also the first time I'd seen Mallakhamb which was performed on a thick pole (a bit of post show googling revealed it's an ancient Indian gymnastics-type sport). The two performers climb up and down the pole sometimes using only their legs to hold themselves in seemingly impossible positions or to catch themselves as they drop. They sometimes synchronise there movements, balances and holds or combine into even more complex feats. It was electrifying to watch and drew gasps from the audience.
The more physical acts are interspersed with toe-tapping musical puppetry, comic variety acts and some audience interaction and this is where boundaries of taste start to get pushed. There is a particular gross act involving one performer spitting pieces of banana into anothers mouth - entertaining for some, less so for others I'm sure.
If you are even remotely shy then best to avoid the seats on the stage or near the front. The audience interaction quickly deteriorates into something that is more cringe-worthy and mortifying than funny - at one point it looks like one of the female performers grabs a female audience member's breast which made me feel uncomfortable rather than amused.
It's a shame because most of the show isn't like that but as Kate, my companion for the evening, says it's what you remember most (read more of her thoughts below). It felt designed to entertain a 'late evening' crowd and didn't sit comfortably with the other, comparatively innocent acts.
La Soirée is two hours long including an interval and is at the Aldwych Theatre until Feb 3. There is a family friendly version of the show called La Petite Soirée but I'm giving most of the adult version five stars with two stars for the less tasteful stuff.
Paragraph from my plus one, Kate:
La Soirée reminded me of Cirque du Soleil, only with a grittier, edgier execution. One or two acts definitely pushed the boundaries of taste but by the interval I was pumped for part two. More amazing acrobats dazzled: the hula-hoop girl was especially mesmerising, and the ‘human trapeze’ acrobats were breathtaking. However, other acts definitely went too far, including some uncomfortable audience engagement, and an American satire piece that didn’t resonate with the audience and that climaxed in a particularly distasteful way. Ultimately it was the bad-taste acts I found myself discussing afterwards rather than the amazing acrobats. And that’s a shame, because there’s some real skill and it’s an exciting show.