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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

 
LA CLIQUE
at the London Hippodrome

THINGS NOT TO TRY AT HOME
By MATT WOLF

  David O'Mer/PH: Tristram Kenton

The British have always made a fetish of individualism: those mavericks - if you'll forgive what these days has become a loaded word - who do things their way, and custom be damned. But even with that societal predilection in mind, it's difficult to explain the hold exerted over a London public by a Norwegian contortionist known as Dr. Frodo, who can bend himself into shapes not commonly associated with humankind. You may just have to see La Clique, the new vaudeville evening of which Frodo forms the most eye-opening component, to check this entertainer's singular, uh, skills out for yourself. Assuming, that is, that you are able to check out his ability to squeeze inside not one but several tennis racquets without averting your gaze. My companion had a hard time doing so but got the drift of it from the awestruck squeals - some of disgust, others very clearly of revulsion - doing the rounds of the crowd at the Hippodrome, the erstwhile Leicester Square disco and onetime Talk of the Town nightclub where La Clique has settled in for a winter run.

I wish Frodo well, though I have to say, it's just as easy to be appalled by his gifts as it clearly is to be amazed by them. And I feel similarly beneficent toward La Clique, an Edinburgh Festival import that shakes up the possible options available to showgoers on your ordinary London night, especially amidst a season chock-a-block with highbrow revivals (No Man's Land, Ivanov) and an unusual number of plays given over to pain, even if one of those - The Norman Conquests - does arrive accompanied by liberal doses of biting comic pleasure.

La Clique, meanwhile, is a grab bag of novelty acts that dips and falls depending on each routine but is wise enough not to outstay its welcome. (The fish and chips on offer at the intermission isn't bad, either.) One wants a lot more of the Montreal-based Cabaret Decadanse than is served up at the opening of both acts, since puppeteering isn't usually so slinky or witty. The gravity-defying logic of some of the more malleable puppets carries over to the human escapades on view. The English Gents consist in fact of two Australian muscle men whose taut bodies are at first obscured by pinstriped suits that cast the pair as a somewhat hunkier equivalent to Jeeves and Wooster. The incipient gayness of their routine extends to the queeny compere, Mario, whose self-professed idol is - you guessed it - the late Freddie Mercury of Queen. The first half ends with a quite literal wet dream in the guise of the punningly named David O'Mer , a German aerielist who swoops in and out of a full bath displaying little more than some tight jeans and a glistening bare chest.

The more hetero minded in the house will surely warm to Ursula Martinez and her talk of clitoral stimulation, though perhaps only the real die-hards will want to join in her anthemic salute to south London - the improbable chant, Viva Croydon! As Louise might have put it in Gypsy, Martinez is less a stripper than an ecdysiast, possessed of a gift for genuine nudist hanky panky (that's to say, tricks involving a hanky capable of being panky). Other distaff players include Miss Behave - the moniker says it all - and a hula hoop artiste by way of the Ukraine with the wonderful name of Yulia Pikhtina. I haven't a clue whether that's Pikhtina's true name, but I do know that she's got a way with hula hoops that made me briefly nostalgic for my adolescence (and for a slimmer waist). So, for that matter, did that amiable enough freak show, Frodo, when he cracked his knuckles. Now there's something you actually can try at home.

 


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