Auckland Arts Festival: LA SOIRÉE - review

by James Wenley / 09 March, 2017
The twisted cabaret of La Soiree. Photo: Prudence Upton
LA SOIRÉE starts with a fake out. Their obligatory singer, Miss Frisky, begins with a sultry, gothic cover of “Finally”, investing the cotton-candy lyrics with earnest seriousness. I think, yeah, I can probably get on board with the vibe of this show. But with an eruption of gold ticker-tape, she switches into full Priscilla: Queen of the Desert mode. I can definitely get on board with this one too. 

Every year Auckland Arts Festival hosts an adult cirque-cum-cabaret in the Spiegeltent, and every year they try to outdo each other with how adult, dark and sensual they can go. This year, we’ve got a different Belgian Spiegeltent (an absolutely luxurious specimen), and from LA SOIRÉE, a very different attitude. They’re having none of the pretentiousness that comes with the genre, and instead, are just having as much fun as possible.

Little attention has been paid to the glue that holds the acts together. There’s an entirely forgettable MC who provides rather ineffectual hype. Miss Behave, wearing tight red latex dress and devil horns, pops up occasionally and provides amusing interludes with scissors, wine glasses, and her take on sword swallowing. But the quality of the individual acts are such that they don’t need any help in generating an astonished response from us.

And what acts! LA SOIRÉE has taken the least sexy parts of the circus and made them sexy again. Mario, “Queen of the Circus,” idolises Freddy Mercury and does a juggling act choreographed to “Another One Bites the Dust”. It’s pulled off with such flair that it looks like he is steering the batons through the air via mind-control.

Ursula Martinez does a magic trick involving a disappearing handkerchief. Stuff of kids parties, you might think. But then she starts stripping so there are fewer possible places she might hide it.

And I will never doubt the sex appeal of the diablo again after seeing it manipulated by “sensual gentleman” Asher Treleaven.

There’s also the cool Britannia double-act of The English Gents (Hamish McCann and Leon Fagbemi) who do astounding lifts while dressed in pin-striped suits and bowler hats, pausing to adjust their cufflinks or read the paper.

The show-stealer is double-joined Captain Frodo of Norway, who promises us dislocations as he stuffs and cracks his body through two rackets. What makes him extra special are his eccentric off-the-cuff observations and physical pratfalls, not to mention his magnificently coiffed moustache.

The second half is looser. Treleaven does a reading poking fun at a Mills and Boon description of congress. Martinez gets political with a song about cultural appropriation. Bret Pfister does a skilful trapeze act, but is missing a showstopper moment. But then Captain Frodo, McCann, and Mario are back to bring the roof off.  

As Captain Frodo remarks, “isn’t it just amazing what people can do for a living?” LA SOIRÉE is the most unabashed fun I’ve had in a Speigeltent for years.

LA SOIRÉE, Spiegeltent, until March 26.

SCORE: 8
Auckland Arts Festival 2017

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