International burlesque cabaret La Clique has extended its limited season at the London Hippodrome by two-and-a-half months to 19 April 2009, after which the historic Leicester Square venue may close once again as a public performance venue and be 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.

A mixture of cabaret, new burlesque, circus sideshow and contemporary variety, La Clique’s eclectic assortment of acts includes: Norwegian contortionist Captain Frodo; Spanish stripper Ursula Martinez; Germany bathtub-diving aerialist David O’Mer; hula hoopist Yulia Pikhtina from Kiev; strongmen the English Gents (in fact Australian); London’s own PVC-clad fetishist Miss Behave; New York alternative comedian and Freddy Mercury reincarnation Mario; and Mikelangelo, the “Bull of the Balkans” baritone troubadour, who joined the company last week.

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 as early as next spring.

The London Hippodrome is also the venue for this year’s Launch Party for our ninth annual Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, the only major theatre prize-giving to be decided by the public (See News, 30 Oct 2008). At the star-studded lunchtime event on Friday 5 December, members of La Clique will join other guest presenters and performers - Graham Norton, Lesley Garrett, Michael Ball, Mel Giedroyc and the stars of Jersey Boys - to help us announce the shortlists of nominations across the 20+ awards categories. Voting will then open online to decide the eventual winners, with results announced in February ahead of our second Awards Show & Concert at a West End theatre on Sunday 15 February 2009.

- by Terri Paddock