Left - Miss Behave
It has been years since stories of La Clique’s world-renowned carnie family first reached my ears. So it was with great expectations I joined the throng to see them in a sold out Spiegeltent for the start of the Adelaide Festival. Did they live up to such heights of grandeur you ask? Well it was certainly entertaining, and they were indeed funny and clever and very international, darling, but it did not give me the delicious thrills I was hoping for. Was that asking too much? I guess it was.
A combination of cabaret, burlesque, comedy and a hint of circus, La Clique has become synonymous with the best of the best in classy carnival fare. First coming to Adelaide in 2004 it returned two years ago and reappears now with a whole new line up. The decadent tent was packed to the rafters and performances took place either on the edge of the stage that wasn’t covered in seating, or the circular podium in the centre.
Some popular street performers were there; such as Mario Queen of the Circus, who loves Freddie Mercury and pulls some mean three-ball juggling combos; and bumbling pseudo-Swedish magician Carl-Einer Hackner who rattles through some nearly-magic he brought from Ikea and attempts to play the harmonica. Both men incite heavy giggles and they make an appearance for more than one act each.
The Wau-Wau Sisters, a duo act from New York, deviate from their usual acrobatic banter and perform on a trapeze as hard-core rock chicks, complete with cans of Bundy and a fag. The routine is technically top class, but unfortunately not as funny as their chatty comedy acts. Another classy dame is Miss Behave, a stalwart of the show and a truly magnificent performer in her own right, she alone brought the level of style I had expected to the stage. Featuring in sword (and other pointy object) swallowing, she is simultaneously glamorous and icky, working the crowd with practiced panache and booming in her fabulous red plastic gown.
Another highlight of the evening was Canadian puppeteers, Cabaret Decadanse, with enormous sassy puppets who sing, dance and interact with their handlers. We meet three different characters throughout the show and they get increasingly kooky. This was the only act that really challenged any traditional cabaret clichés and brought something truly original and inspired to the stage. Hang on, I lie. Roller act, The Skating Willers, are also something different, and if inspired isn’t the word at least they’re pretty damn ballsy. Imagine a divorcee duo who hurl themselves around a too-tiny stage and spin at flinch-worthy speeds in circles in the air. Definitely something you haven’t seen before. Dangerous? Ridiculously. Exciting? I’d say so.
Finally, there’s the woman who pulls a red handkerchief out of certain places I may leave to your more than capable imagination. If you’ve never seen this sleight of hand number before you will be more than adequately titillated. Ursula Martinez is a Croyden, U.K. girl with a Flamenco heart and knows how to undress to impress with a simplicity and grace that eludes many less mature burlesque lasses. Plus she sings, speaks Spanish and strums the chitarra.
What was glaringly missing from the show was that boy in the bathtub with the muscles (much to my dismay) and those charming acrobats, The English Gents. Both of whom have been highlights in the past, but hey, you can’t always have your Clique and eat it too (sorry). Perhaps a little heavy on the slap-dash comedians, this La Clique doesn’t bring the spectacular circus acts it has done in the past. However it is still a guaranteed good night out, and while the laughs are not-so-cheap anymore, it remains an institution that, let’s face it, some of us just have to see.
2010 Adelaide Festival presents
Venue: The Famous Spiegeltent | Elder Park, South Bank of River Torrens, off King William Road, Adelaide
Dates: 24 Feb 2010 - 13 Mar 2010
Tickets: $65.00 - $60.00
Duration: 1 hour 45 minutes