Review: La Soiree at the Roundhouse

Firstly, a few words about the show La Soiree itself, which brings together an international set of artists performing various circus acts. Their website bills this as ‘a heady cocktail cabaret and new burlesque’ but on the evening that we went, it was more a display of circus skills. There is a great demonstration of athleticism in all of the acts, some of which are laced with humour and others with eroticism. Some of the acts are truly impressive, causing the audience to react with fear, marvel and laughter in equal measure. Mario, Queen of the Circus, struts his stuff on stage, teasing the audience with an amazing juggling act to Queen’s music. Ukrainian Yula Pykhtina gives us a sexy rendition of hula hooping while Canadian duo, Hugo Desmarais and Katharine Arnold, do a breathtakingly impossible seduction act while being suspended above us. German artists, Christopher Schlunk and Iris Pelz, give us what seems like a dangerous but an incredible acrobatics act. Charlie Chaplin look alike Nate Cooper combines his act with deft athletic skills and humour.

Not all of the acts are even in tempo or entertainment. One or two of the acts which involve members of the audience feel flat and tedious although this has more to do with how ‘game’ the selected audience members are rather than the concept behind the acts. The first half of the show is enjoyable but the second half loses momentum and is monotonous. Once you have seen the variety of acts in the first half, the second half has little spectacle. A 45 min two acts would have been better, in my view, than the hour long acts. The show could have also done with a more vibrant compere; someone who could have made the acts seem less disjointed as one followed the other.

And now, a few words on an incident that happened to us on the evening we went which didn’t help our overall enjoyment of this show. Our group of four sat in the stalls and halfway through the first Act, it became clear that the group of people sitting behind us were very very drunk. They started banging into us as they went to the bar regularly for more drinks and the man sitting behind me was kicking the back of my seat non-stop. Because we were a bit understanding (perhaps too much so), we waited for the end of the first Act before we politely asked them to stop their disruptive antics. They stopped but for for a full ten minutes before it all kicked off again. This time, one of them was aiming an unopened bottle of champagne at the rest of the audience while he was attempting to open it. Fearing for our safety, I went to speak to an usher who told me, ‘I’m busy’ although quite what she was busy with, I had no idea. I then approached another who stopped the drunken man from opening the said bottle. He told me that he’d keep an eye on them but he disappeared soon afterwards, never to be seen, and things went back to normal. The back of my seat was kicked; and we were taunted with verbal abuse and it took a lot of restrain to not rise to their bait. To compound things further, a few of the severely drunken members got up to heckle at the performers, blocking the view for many people sitting behind them. They were drunk but it was clear that they were looking for trouble.

It was only right at the very end when the show finished that we saw two security guards turning up to escort this group out of the venue. I related our experience to the compere of the show and he thought that an offer of free tickets to another evening might assuage my anger and frustration. Oh please.

The crowd control and security management at this show was poor, given the raft of health and safety regulations local authorities impose on entertainment venues. For instance, why was this group allowed to take unopened bottles of champagne and wine to their seats? At the beginning of the show, the compere encouraged the audience to go to the bar during the show for more drinks because ‘it’s that kind of a show’. I have no problem with everyone having a good time but I do have a problem with how the management allowed a few to spoil the evening for many. As I left the Roundhouse, the two security guards told me that they’d only heard of the trouble five minutes before the end. This is simply not good enough.

In retrospect, we should have left in the second half when it became evident that nothing was going to be done. But if you want to see this show, my advice would be:
1. go during the week but
2. if you want to go on Saturdays, then choose the early slot (8pm) or
3. pay the top whack to be seated away from potential troublemakers.

Until 29 January 2012
Performance time: 2 hours and 15 minutes with an interval


About manipillai

Oh, just a few of my thoughts on theatre.
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