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La Soirée, Aldwych Theatre review - flickers of brilliance in a patchy evening | reviews, news & interviews

La Soirée, Aldwych Theatre review - flickers of brilliance in a patchy evening

La Soirée, Aldwych Theatre review - flickers of brilliance in a patchy evening

The West End run of the cabaret variety show has everything but variety

Toes skimming over the heads of the front row: Lea HinzProduction images © Bill Knight for theartsdesk

La Soirée is on the up-and-up. Beginning life as an after-hours show at the fringes of the Fringe in 2004, it won an Olivier in 2015 and has landed its first West End residency, a two-month run at the Aldwych Theatre over Christmas. Its acts – comedians, dancers, acrobats and aerialists – have performed all over the world, but the show lives up to its name: an entertaining evening, with nothing to really dazzle.

Kudos to the producers for having the audacity to look at a 100-year-old theatre and think, "Let’s get a woman attached to that ceiling by her bun." The feat of engineering required for multiple acts to swing from the rooftops (including Lea Hinz, main picture) is in itself impressive, but the aerialists are for the most part one-note – they do one thing very well, which gets tedious after 30 seconds. Hinz stands out, getting the biggest applause of the night at the end of her set, which keeps momentum throughout. She spins through the air on a large hoop and somersaults through it, toes skimming over the heads of the front row.

The first block of stalls has been replaced by padded folding chairs (referred to as "ringside"), so that the little circular stage where most of the performers focus their attention is surrounded on three sides. This makes for a rather uncomfortable viewing experience, and though we are reliably informed by the Australian compère that the tables on the main stage are the "posh seats", the occupants look to be getting a bum deal – the view isn't great, as most of the acts perform outwards to the bulk of the audience. You get the feeling that this set-up is a tweak which the show hasn’t quite got used to yet.La SoireeThe posh seats along with the ringside are also under threat from that dreaded phrase: audience participation. It’s a risky business and can really make or break the comic acts’ sets; Amy G’s flamenco-dancing roller-skater in the first half is not well-served by her invitation to a middle-aged man to join her in a sequined bullfighter’s jacket. Then again, the audience member around whom one half of Daredevil Chicken (a camp duo from Las Vegas) bases one of their later sets saves the act from total tedium, which should serve to illustrate how entertaining they had been up to that point. Amy G’s other appearances through the show are more engaging – her jokes about Trump and Kevin Spacey are fresh and whip-smart, and some of her improvised lines are so funny I was left wishing that she would abandon the script entirely. 

The problem is that the show just doesn’t have enough variety to warrant the description, and attempts to mix it up veer dangerously close to exoticism – watching Mallakhamb India!, a pair of acrobats from Mumbai (pictured above), in a mostly white audience, I was struck that we could have been at a cabaret in 1905, the year the Aldwych opened. The compère’s repeated exhortations to grab a drink from the bar whenever we felt like it say it all: La Soirée is a fun night out, but much more enjoyable when tipsy.

The posh seats along with the ringside are also under threat from that dreaded phrase: audience participation


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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