Returning to Edinburgh for its fourteenth year running, though only its first at the holiday season, La Clique Noel – housed in a Spiegeltent not far from the more permanent Usher Hall and Traverse Theatre – is Christmas come early for fans of circus, burlesque, cabaret, and other acts of the breath-taking and/or naughty kind. The two-hour extravaganza dazzles, dizzies, and delights by showcasing acts too little seen on the mainstream UK theatre scene. While the majority of the show is not connected to the holidays (some carols and a teasing ‘Santa Baby’ being the exceptions), its sense of excitement, indulgence, and play feel appropriate in this season of excess.
While the cast and acts change with each season and locale (in addition to Edinburgh, La Clique has performed in London, Adelaide, Sydney, New York, Paris, and Montreal), the production’s Fringe origins are strongly evident – and this is a positive note. The audience might be familiar with the exact genre of the mental and physical feats performed due to this pedigree, but La Clique trades in moments at the extreme – in the quality of the acts, the boldness (in physical and mental terms) of the performances, and (in most cases) both. From swallowing six swords at once, to a scandalously memorable, seemingly cheat-proof magician act ending the show, the show offers no shortage of gasps and laughs.
The performers’ diverse expertise and styles are diverse, connected only by the communal tent and irreverent tones. The pure cheek needed to pull off camp nonsense while dresses as a Spandexed rabbit, which Scott Grabell does with aplomb, is admirable and memorable. Craig Reed’s hula skills would be impressive by themselves, but coupled with a joyous flamboyance he becomes one of the nights’ most fun moments. Tim Kriegler’s and Johnny Rey’s acrobatics seem to defy death and humanity, as do the rockabilly-attired Heather Holliday’s sword- and fire-swallowing feats. With three vastly different acts in the show, Leah Shelton boozes and strips her way into the holiday spirit. Vicky Butterfly burlesque dance might be the least memorable of the acts, but it is gorgeous to look at. Lastly, Bernie Dieter emcees with true Weimar flair, effortlessly turning the audience into her comrades in debauchery.
The live band impresses as more than a backup act; in particular, singer Kelly Wolfgram shines, especially when performing solo between the acts. The show’s lighting design, while appropriately spectacular, unfortunately lets the show down – its rotating spotlights blind the audience at various points, distracting from the entertainment at hand. Raucous, blush-inducing, and unabashed fun, La Clique Noel is an excellent way to spend a cold Edinburgh evening.
La Clique Noel plays at the at the Festival Square Spiegeltent on Lothian Road, Edinburgh (by the Sheraton Hotel, EH3 9SR) until 6th January 2018. Show start at 8.00pm Monday to Friday, 6.00pm and 9.00pm Fridays, and 5.00pm and 8.00pm Saturdays. Tickets start from £19.50 on weekdays and from £24.50 on weekends; they can be booked online or over the phone at 0131 510 0395 (Edinburgh residents can get a discount by entering their postcode). Patrons under the age of sixteen must be accompanied by an adult.
Scott ‘Scotty The Blue Bunny’ Grabell
Dannie Bourne – Musical Director
Kelly Wolfgram – Vocalist and keyboards
Marty Hayley – Guitarist, Vocalist
Eamon McNelis – Trumpet and Sousaphone
Stuart Semple – Drums and percussion
Mark Elton – Bass