It was slightly alarming to see Christmas trees in the shop windows last week, but I didn't feel so bad after rolling up to La Soirée on the South Bank. This is the cabaret show formerly known as "La Clique", and it's housed in a glorious art deco Spiegeltent by the National Theatre.
The venue is more impermanent and circus-like than the Hippodrome – La Clique's former home – was; there's a party atmosphere you might find irresistible after a few drinks.
The bill comprises a flexible line up of weird, outrageous cabaret turns, none more flexible than Captain Frodo, who pulls his entire body through a 12-inch tennis racket, then dislocates his own shoulder and swings his arm around in its socket like a loose salami. "Thank you for coming," he says, "... if you did."
The show certainly deals in a sort of Camden Lock-style exhibitionist masochism. All the chaps have waxed torsos and one of them, David O'Mer, makes his bath-time aerial ballet look like a damp bondage display. Then there's Miss Behave, who struts around provocatively in a yellow rubber dress and pulls steel rods through her tongue.
There's a huge amount of skill on show, especially from the English Gentlemen, an Aussie duet in suits who perform daring feats of power balancing and acrobatics; the Montreal puppeteers, Cabaret Decadanse, who manipulate their divas as a classic expression of self-fulfilment; and a hula-hooping Betty Boop on skates who can sashay on the spot with several dozen illuminated hoops rattling-a-go-go like an animated ball gown skeleton.
A welcome new recruit from Cirque du Soleil is buxom, bravura comedienne Mooky Cornish, who first inveigles an audience member into a love scene and then returns as a hilarious convention magician in black leather whose act goes up in smoke and booze to the strains of a Eurovision "nul point" contender.
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