The economy size Christmas tree perched on the tiny stage at the end of the Spiegeltent catwalk lends a deceptively cosy air to the start of La Clique’s latest cabaret compendium for this year’s Underbelly-run Edinburgh’s Christmas. The tree doesn’t last long, however, and is quite rightly jettisoned from view by teutonic diva and MC extraordinaire Bernie Dieter. It’s still November, after all, and as Dieter points out, “this isn’t a fucking panto.”
Under the guidance of director David Bates, Dieter hosts a showcase of some of the most wilfully individual talents around in a night that would probably work much the same without the occasional festive reference shoehorned in. This makes for a greatest hits set of bite-size routines that never outstay their welcome, be it the return of Heather Holliday’s sparkly and suggestive take on sword-swallowing and fire eating, or gentleman juggler Florian Brooks. There is old-school comedy magic from Paul Zenon and drop-dead burlesque by Mosh. All this is backed by Dannie Bourne and the La Clique Orchestra, who provide a suitably bump-and-grind soundtrack to the show, enhanced even more by Kelly Wolfgramm’s sassy vocals.
While all bar Dieter and Holliday are new to the show, it remains a variation on the familiar La Clique theme. For all the wondrous physical derring-do on show, this can at times feel like thin pickings. It is Dieter who keeps up the momentum with a knowing sense of outrage and cheek, which she uses to bring several male members of the audience to their knees. Along with Zenon’s unreconstructed sleight of hand, Dieter’s mix of Weimar-era decadence and nouveau camp is by far the most engaging aspect of the show. Until, that is, aerialist Stephen Williams closes the night with a feat of bath-bound gymnastics that makes for the biggest splash of all.
The Herald, November 26th 2018