La Clique Noel: Part Deux

Festival Square Spiegeltent, Edinburgh

Four Stars

Until January 5

An Edinburgh Fringe phenomenon is becoming a Yuletide tradition as the multifarious cabaret talents of La Clique install themselves in Festival Square for a second Christmas show. Since its first productions, at the Fringe back in 2004, La Clique has been entertaining rapt audiences in the capital with its slightly risque mixture of music, acrobatics, magic, striptease and circus acts.

The music played by Dannie Bourne and his band, and sung with impressive range by Australian chanteuse Kelly Wolfgramm, gives the show a jazzy, American feel. However, the atmospheric tone of the show is really set by our extraordinary hostess Bernie Dieter.

Brilliantly bold and fabulously flirtatious, the self-proclaimed “mistress of mayhem” takes us back to the nightclubs of Berlin in the 1920s, which remain the beating heart of cabaret. Indeed, when she isn’t terrifying male members of the audience by getting, hilariously, up close and personal with them, she is making a timely call for love and acceptance of diversity because, now, as in Weimar Germany, “there’s some scary s*** going on” in the world outside.

The acts Dieter presents include the eye-watering sword-swallowing and dynamic fire-eating of New Yorker Heather Holliday, the spectacular hair-hanging acrobatics of Fancy Chance and the impressive juggling of dapper, Brussels-trained circus performer Florian Brooks. The Marilyn-esque striptease of Muscovite model and burlesque act Mosh takes the show to the edge of its mainstream billing, while Stephen Williams’s performance of that old favourite “young, male aerial artist in a bath” is like a cross between a circus performance and a Diet Coke advert from the 1980s.

Magician and comedian Paul Zenon projects an uncomfortably cynical persona. Although he impresses with his sleight of hand, the Ken Dodd Comedy Award-winner’s jokes have more than a whiff of the 1970s about them.

All told, the show keeps pretty assiduously to La Clique’s well-worn path, only nodding gently towards the sub-cultural edginess of contemporary burlesque. It’s a good night out nevertheless, thanks in very large measure to the inimitable Ms Dieter.

Snow White And The Seven Dames

Perth Theatre

Four stars

Until January 5

Perth audiences have had so much fun with Dame Barrie Hunter over the last seven years that the Fair City’s pantomime lead (who has also turned director of the show) has decided to try them with no fewer than seven cross-dressed comic characters. Mind you, try as you might, I defy you to spot the sisters – Sassy, Cissy, Gassy, Hissy, Glaikit, Hackit and Frank (aye, Frank!) – in the same place at the same time. It’s almost as if they’re all being played by just two actors (the fabulous Hunter and his splendid partner-in-panto Ewan Somers), or something.

Like the seven dwarfs of legend, the dames are miners. However, they’re not digging for gold or coal, but, rather, extracting huge quantities of beautifying elixir for Helen Logan’s fabulously sung, yet deliciously evil Queen B.

Needless to say, as the Dunfrackin Mine, just outside the lovely town of Perthfect, is exploited to the point of exhaustion, the environmental cost of these endeavours is massive. The Queen’s demand for the elixir is limitless, after all, her stepdaughter Snow White’s pubescent spottiness won’t last forever, and the malevolent monarch must remain the “fairest of them all”.

Emma Mullen’s Snow White is splendidly unconventional; not least because she wants to dump her moniker in favour of something more prosaic. Pestered by Michael Dylan’s hilarious Prince Poshpants (imagine William Rees-Mogg labouring under the delusion that he’s Lord Flashheart), she prefers Kyle Gardiner’s morally conflicted Tam the Huntsman.

The scene down the stricken mine, in which, courtesy of Hunter and Somers’s comic virtuosity, all seven sisters manage to put in an appearance, is a scream. As ever in Perth, it’s a gloriously silly panto, and a fine directorial debut for Dame Hunter.