Theatre review: La Clique brings sword-swallowing, fire-breathing marvels to Marina Bay Sands

PHOTO: La Clique

Singapore is just beginning to bounce back from the pandemic, and one of our wildest, wackiest signs of hope comes in the form of La Clique. The first long-running show with an international cast to hit our shores since Covid-19 struck, La Clique is circus, cabaret, and comedy rolled into one rollicking ride.

After our year and a half of being starved of live entertainment , this award-winning show has swooped into Marina Bay Sands like a fearless, wickedly funny gust of fresh air.

La Clique was first born at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2004; since then, it’s brought its brand of belly laughs and breath-stopping stunts round the world from Sydney to New York.

The circus was originally set to take Singapore by storm this May, but P2HA restrictions threw a wrench into the works. Now, produced by Sliding Doors Entertainment in collaboration with Unusual Entertainment and Marina Bay Sands, its powerhouse cast of nine artists will be taking the stage at the Sands Expo till 7 November 2021.

This time round, the show’s usual romp through acrobatics, fire-eating feats, and saucy tunes comes peppered with playful nods to the pandemic. Berlin-born acrobat Oscar Kaufmann kicks off the night with La Clique’s celebrated ‘Bath Boy’ routine, an aerial silks-meets-bathtub act packed with spins and flips faster than our eyes can follow.

His dramatic, brooding rendition is done to Queen’s The Show Must Go On – an apt opening song for a show whose performers haven’t seen the stage in 18 months. Still, you’d hardly realise the hiatus from his fluid grace – it’s a joy to watch him practically float through the air.

We had to remind ourselves to breathe throughout Heather Holliday ‘s acts. Formerly the world’s youngest female sword swallower and a fire-breather to boot, this heavily tattooed sylph sashays across the stage and slips a physics-defying number of blades down her throat with a sultry wink.

She tells us that she can swallow a sword ‘with her eyes closed, and give it a little twist ’cause I’m bored’ – so her act sees her innards accommodating no less than six blades. We can feel our insides twisting too at her daredevil fire-breathing act, culminating in a rush of flame so powerful that the heat hits us from five rows away.

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For a highly interactive show like La Clique, one post-pandemic challenge to grapple with is the loss of audience engagement. No longer can emcee and ‘Mistress of Mayhem’ Bernie Dieter strut her stuff through the crowd, teasing hapless gents and roping in four volunteers to carry her back onstage.

But she rises roguishly to the no-touching challenge with a steamy song dubbed Everyone Wants to Touch Me, rocking a massive pink cloud of a fur coat that looks, indeed, very touchable. With her rich crooning, she powers through both bittersweet bops and bawdy drinking songs with pizzazz.

It’s a spectacle crammed with gasp-inducing moments, not least rollerskating duo The Skating Willers ‘ neck spin – a stunt that involves one of them pinwheeling through the air at dizzying speeds by her neck alone.

Or hula hoop artiste Lisa Lottie ‘s extraordinary gyrations with hoops twirling round each limb. Meanwhile, aerialist Elke Udh pulls off a lyrical performance on the trapeze, with her mesmerizing hangs and expressive movements. While not every act is show-stopping, there’s certainly plenty to laugh, scream, and cheer about.

All this happens on a small, in-the-round stage that brings the audience right up close to the magic. Strung with fairy lights, the stage is crafted to emulate Europe’s iconic spiegeltent – a travelling entertainment tent cobbled together from wood and canvas. Throw in fabulous live music from the four-piece La Clique Palais Orkestra, and you’ve got the stage set for a good night.

La Clique runs from Sept 18 to Nov 7 at Sands Expo and Convention Centre at Marina Bay Sands, Exhibition Hall C, 10 Bayfront Ave, Singapore 018956. Tickets are priced from $98 via Marina Bay Sands’ website. The Show & Dine package is priced from $133 per pax and includes a pre- or post-show meal at CUT by Wolfgang Puck, dB Bistro & Oyster Bar, Mott 32, or Yardbird Southern Table & Bar.


This article was first published in City Nomads.