La Soiree, at the South Bank Big Top, a birthday surprise organised for my lovely sister-in-law by her enterprising husband.
Despite my original mild horror and panic at actually going out on a dark and cold Saturday night to central London to something which didn't even start until 10pm (hey, as a hard-working mum I'm usually knackered most of the time!), it was a fantastic evening.
La Soiree is essentially a series of 'alternative' variety acts in a circus-like setting. But that clinical description belies the beauty, comedy and occasional eroticism of the huge multi-national talent we saw last weekend. As soon as you enter the beautifully lit and staged venue (a temporary 'tent' opposite the back of the National Theatre) you feel as if you are entering an intimate and private party. (The pre-drinks at the Oxo Tower helped, as did another drink in the cosy venue lobby bar...)
We saw Cabaret Decadance (Montreal puppeteers of sassy divas) and Captain Frodo (a Norse contortionist who told us, in answer to a frequently-asked question, 'yes, I can'...) amongst others. I really enjoyed Hamish McCann's alternative pole-dancing act, starting with a Gene Kelly pastiche, and morphing into a sexy, strutting routine to Nina Simone's 'I'm feelin good' - watch it here, if you dare. Also featured 'The English Gents' - here they are guesting on Paul O'Grady.
There was an interesting female act of erotic comedic magic, by Ursula Martinez, which sparked a debate amongst us about whether full female nudity (for yes, she ended up naked at the end) was ever justified in such a setting (especially as she was the only act to go fully naked, though plenty of male torso on display).
Also spotted in the audience, the bizarre combination of Theo Paphitis (definitely, one of our party spoke to him, him off 'Dragons Den') and Howard Donald (less definitely, apparently of 'Take That', seemingly on his own).
The current run of La Soiree at the SBC is over now but they will be returning in the winter to the Roundhouse in Camden. I'd very much recommend this for a group night out (no children allowed). Let's hope the party atmosphere created by the tent-setting continues at the Roundhouse setting.