Review: La Soirée's international cabaret wins new fans in Hong Kong
La Soirée is a cocktail of astonishing acrobats, mind-bending feats and thrilling cabaret
Expectations are high for this show not least because La Soirée was named, in April, best entertainment and family show at the Olivier Awards in the UK, an accolade that it had already won once in 2009 when in its previous incarnation as La Clique. It has also won best cabaret at this year’s Fringe World Awards in Perth, and best unique theatrical experience at the Off Broadway Alliance Awards in 2014.
However, what works abroad may not necessarily work here but judging by the audience reaction end of the opening night, this touring production may have won a host of new fans in the city.
La Soirée is, by and large, what it says it is in the promotional leaflet, a “cocktail of astonishing acrobats, mind-bending feats and thrilling cabaret”. It features around a dozen performers from around the world – including the UK, the US, Germany and Australia – and some weird but wonderful acts.
Much of the action takes place on a makeshift stage, a circular podium facing the audience, with “VIP” members flanking on either side. The front end of the theatre setting resembles that of the inside of a circus tent.
The show opens with Rossini’s upbeat William Tell Overture, a tune most locals would associate with horseracing, which adds to the carnival atmosphere. But that mood shifts as drag queen/ baritone Le Gateau Chocolat enters from the back of the house, shrouded with mystery and dry ice fog, blasting out Puccini’s Nessun Dorma. This is an odd choice for a warm-up act.
That is followed by the English Gents – Denis Lock and Hamish McCann – the first highlight of the evening. The duo is an awe-inspiring showcase of human strength, as they lift and balance in positions that you wouldn’t have thought possible, especially in business suits. But it is their onstage personality – that Monty Pythonesque Englishness – that makes them a joy to watch.
Captain Frodo (Frode Sandven) the contortionist, on the other hand, is painful to watch as he keeps tripping over himself, again and again. I’m sure all that clumsiness is part of the act but when he falls off the podium with a thud – body stuck inside two tennis racquet frames – I find that sequence more horrific than funny. Kids – and there, surprisingly, are quite a few in the audience – do not try this at home.
A treat for the ladies when the former gymnast (and shirtless) David O’Mer emerges from a bathtub filled with water for his aerial acrobatic act. He splashes and swirls around in mid-air soaking wet, giving all those sitting close to the stage their VIP treatment.
The female performers are all entertaining but pale in comparison to the feats of their male counterparts; though Amy G (Amy Gordon) raises a few eyebrows when she performs the American national anthem with three whistles simultaneously and not all with her mouth.
The stars of La Soirée are Lock and McCann who also have their individual act. Lock, whose Cantonese diction is impressive, delights everyone with his bubble-blowing tricks, while McCann makes an art form out of his pole-dancing routine.
Unfortunately the Lyric Theatre is not the best venue for this kind of cabaret-like show, which calls for a smaller and intimate setting.
La Soirée, Lyric Theatre, HK Academy for Performing Arts
Reviewed: September 16
La Soirée runs until September 20