La Clique Extends, More Leicester Square CabaretDate: 3 March 2009
International burlesque cabaret La Clique has extended its limited season at the London Hippodrome by another eight weeks to 14 June 2009, although the historic Leicester Square venue that it calls home is still under threat of being closed as a public performance venue and converted into a casino.
La Clique made its London debut at the Hippodrome on 10 October 2008 (previews from 2 October) and had initially been booking until 1 February 2009, which it later extended to 19 April (See News, 20 Nov 2008).
A mixture of cabaret, new burlesque, circus sideshow and contemporary variety, La Clique’s eclectic assortment of acts includes several new additions: recent arrivals the Skating Willers and, joining over the next fortnight, hula-girl Marawa, physical comedienne Amy G and aerialist Erna Sommer. The show was nominated for Theatre Event of the Year in this year’s Whatonstage.com Awards and has also been nominated for Best Entertainment in the Laurence Olivier Awards, which are announced this Sunday (See News, 3 Feb 2009).
La Clique has performed seasons around the world including Sydney, Melbourne, Montreal, Dublin and New York in addition to regular summer stints at the Edinburgh Fringe, where it’s annually one of the hottest tickets at the festival. It’s presented in London by La Clique Productions, Mark Rubinstein and Mick Perrin.
First constructed by Frank Matcham in 1900 as a water circus, the Hippodrome’s early performances featured elephants, polar bears and sea lions which all frolicked in its 100,000-litre pool. A varied history has seen it operate as the location for one of Harry Houdini’s greatest escapes; and in the 1960s and 1970s, the stage was graced by the likes of Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey, Ethel Merman and The Temptations in its incarnation as the dinner-dance venue Talk of the Town. It was purchased in the early 1980s by Peter Stringfellow who turned it into a nightclub and returned it to its original name, the Hippodrome. Most recently, the venue has been used for private events only.
Shortly after La Clique successfully reopened the Hippodrome as a place of public performance, an application by United Leisure Gaming for a license to convert the venue into a casino was approved. Previous applications have been rejected because of the Hippodrome’s historic status. The current managers are appealing the decision of the gaming justices, but if United Leisure Gaming are successful in raising the £20 million capital required, building work may begin later this year.
Meanwhile, around the corner from the Hippodrome, the Leicester Square Theatre is upping the cabaret ante and giving La Clique a run for its money with weekly late-night Friday performances under the banner Live from Leicester Square launching from 13 March 2009.
The Live show will star burlesque queen Miss Polly Rae and her Hurly-Burly Girls at the top of a bill that will also feature international variety and burlesque entertainers and other guest artists, including “Frisky and Mannish” and tap-dancing juggler Stuart Pemberton. Paul Martin acts as the master of ceremonies.
- by Terri Paddock