Review: Blanc de Blanc (London Hippodrome)

Strut & Fret’s new show is a saucy, ramshackle night of burlesque and circus

Theatre? Naaa. Circus? Not completely. Striptease? That’s more like it. Strut & Fret’s new show Blanc de Blanc is a ramshackle night of naughty burlesque and kooky physical comedy with a couple of impressive demonstrations of acrobatic prowess thrown in. Let me just say this: from willy-waggling to nipple tassles, to ping pong show-style tricks – Google it. Actually, maybe don’t – I saw more of these performers than is really right.

Basically, if you’re looking for good clean fun, then this ain’t it. Blanc de Blanc is a raucous, filthy, Moulin Rouge-esque show that pays more homage to saucy variety than it does to circus. Inspired by and themed around champagne, the piece is hosted by Monsier Romeo, a kind of French maître d'. His suave accent and continuous pout is rather fun and when he rips off his suit to reveal tiny pants and bulging pecks in a bubble bath in the second half, it is quite a surprise.

The set pieces – all tied together with remixes of old classics and new pop songs (Paolo Conte’s "It’s Wonderful" shares the stage with the likes of Christina Aguilera’s "Lady Marmalade") – run over two halves. There’s a riff on the classic balloon-popping striptease, where the performer Laura New relies on literally rolling around on the audience to burst her costume. Over the course of the evening Emma Maye Gibson surprises us with the strength of her pelvic floor muscles more than once. When the health and safety officer came to check the show, presumably they just looked on slack-jawed (as did I, when I saw it) as she placed a firework in an orifice that definitely wasn’t made for that kind of explosion. You can expect gimp cat suits, a lot of debauched cavorting over the audience – often naked (yes, it’s that up-close-and-personal) – and a grotesque moment where champagne is quaffed as it drips through a performer’s bum cheeks.

Amid all this shameless indecency, there are a few acrobatic turns which genuinely impress. Performers Milena Straczynski and Hampus Jansson stage a beautiful aerial show on high – although we could have done without the French kissing at the end of it. Shun Sugimoto’s contortion and breakdancing were excellent and Spencer Novich’s comedic elements were hilarious. Although they often felt like padding, the audience interaction moments were very funny. J’aiMime’s exceptionally bizarre turn inside a massive plastic balloon had a brilliant surrealness to it, but the show's ending feels pretty scrappy. As the performers cavort around the stage in various stages of undress, the audience are covered in foam, bubbles and water.

Blanc de Blanc is by no means corked. In fact, it has probably found its spiritual home at the London Hippodrome, where gamblers and tourists are out to get a little sense of Vegas. I wished for more circus and less body parts, but, then again, maybe Strut & Fret have the balance right: perhaps titillation is all you want when you’ve a bottle of vintage Moet and some big winnings by your side.

Blanc de Blanc runs at the London Hippodrome until 28 August.