There are lots of imitation burlesque circus cabarets flying around these days, but nothing quite equals the spirit, energy and theatrical flow of La Soiree, at once anarchic but tightly disciplined, subversive and sensational.
This Australian-born show, which I've now seen everywhere from London and New York (where it played an Off-Broadway residency) to Sydney itself, has now become not only a London fixture but a global phenomenon. Its return now in a Spiegeltent — a circular mirrored wooden structure put up in the grounds near the London Eye — for its 6th season is a bright joy for the Christmas season — a blissful adult alternative to panto.
The show features a rotating set of headline acts, some of whom I've seen many times before but never tire of seeing, like Captain Frodo with his bizarre double-jointed contortions that see him putting his body through the heads of two tennis rackets at the same time, or the English Gents, two formally attired, bowler-hatted men who shed it all to reveal Union Jack underwear and do extraordinary balancing acts with each other.
But they're each of them also refining and practising new acts, too — Captain Frodo is now also an accomplished sword-swallower, while Denis Lock, one of the two Gents, now does an amazing interlude with smoke and bubbles that is both thrilling but also profound, with the lifespan of a bubble - so beautiful yet so temporary - offering a lesson in making the most of every precious moment of our lives.
Indeed the whole show is a life-affirming joy about celebrating the extraordinary individuality of each of us. But these performers are more extraordinarily individual than most of us — and also sometimes more gloriously eccentric, too. Clarke McFarlane's Mario Queen the Circus offers a lesson in casting off the shackles of sexual pigeon-holing in a riotous tribute to his idol Freddie Mercury that has him crowd-surfing the audience at one point. And Mooky Cornish provides a hilarious lesson in getting an audience member to become a great actor with her.
All of these and more — much more — offer an evening of crazy, endlessly diverting fun. It's simply one of the great London nights out.