Monday, 17 November 2014

Interview: The cast of La Soirée

La Soirée has returned to London with an almighty BANG! With five star reviews bouncing off the ceiling, the production is running at the Spiegeltent at the Southbank Centre’s Winter Festival (between the Royal Festival Hall and the London Eye) until 11th January 2015.

Described as a “cocktail of cabaret, new burlesque, circus sideshow and contemporary variety”, La Soirée provides a night out like no other. After being treated to an exclusive sneak peek of her act, I sat down with returning cast member Jess Love (pictured right) who told me the show is “exotic and very unique.”

“It’s sexy, fun, outrageous and hysterical” she said, “You will be shocked out of your brains and laugh so hard that you won’t be able to stand up at the end. It’s a lot of fun for us and I think that’s why it’s so much fun for the audience.”

Creative director Brett Haylock is particularly excited to be back in London for La Soirée’s tenth anniversary. “London has been very kind to us over the years” he said, “It’s amazing to think back to our first nine month run at the Hippodrome and then it was nice to be recognised with the Olivier Award. We’ve come in a full circle and are back here celebrating our tenth anniversary!”

Brett told me that although they play all sorts of venues around the world, La Soirée was originally created to be performed in a Spiegeltent. “It’s our spiritual home and natural habitat” he explained, “It can get pretty rowdy in here which is great – people love it!”

Hamish McCann performing in La Soirée 

I love the vibe inside the venue, and Jess told me that she thinks audiences do too. “At the beginning of the show Brett tells everybody they can get up at any point and go to the bar during the show and I think the audience love that concept!” the hula hoop extraordinaire told me. “It’s against everything that we understand about theatre. La Soirée is breaking the rules of theatre and it makes people do crazy things! People are able to rid any inhibitions and go wild!"

It seems the intimacy between the audience and performers raises the bar and brings extra excitement. I was told all sorts of stories about audiences going crazy, jumping into bathtubs and having the time of their lives… but why? What is it about La Soirée that audiences love so much?

“It’s pure, old fashioned entertainment!” Brett told me, “Our artists are at the top of their game, they’re world class! They’re playing in a very unique and intimate environment. There’s no fourth wall, they’re just playing on a small red stage in the middle of the tent. You can see every detail because they have nowhere to hide!”

"La Soirée is breaking the rules of theatre!"

Jess loves the audience reactions, “It’s the only show where people want to get up on stage at the end! La Soirée is the one circus everyone wants to run away with. That’s the best way of explaining it [laughs]!” She told me about one super fan who has travelled from London to places such as Australia, New York and Hungary to see the show again and again and again.

One of the newest editions to the line-up is contortionist Jonathan Burns (pictured below) who is thrilled to have joined the La Soirée family. “I’d done some guest spots and then Brett asked me to join the London cast which was awesome!” Jonathan told me. “I had been to see La Soirée before and never thought I would be part of it. It’s a legendary show!”

Jonathan’s section of the show makes a change from the grand tricks, and he enjoys coming in and changing the mood. He said, “My part of the show is different – it’s not about big circus tricks or about being traditionally sexy. It’s weird and unusual… I think it’s a little sexy, but in a geeky sort of way. It’s fun to change the atmosphere.”

Both Jonathan and Jess must be asked constantly about how they got into circus performing, but I was so fascinated that I couldn’t help but ask them myself.

For Jess she found it combined her two loves – gymnastics and drama. She said, “I was quite physical as a child so started doing gymnastics and was in a skipping team from about seven years old. I also did lots of drama and music outside of school. It wasn’t until I was about seventeen that I realised circus was a combination of those two skills that I loved and adored!”

From a young age Jonathan realised that he stood out from the rest. “I was always bendy” he explained, “When I was a kid in gym class at school people would be stretching and I would be able to put my leg way back over head and I was just always able to do unusual things with my body. When I was a teenager I got into magic and started doing events and birthday parties and so on. I’ve never had a real job! I did the magic show, later on I added in the contortion stuff which then became this whole variety act!”

David & Fofo
Despite the high risks involved, the performers and team are so experienced that things rarely go wrong. However, Jonathan once had an interesting experience when he was practising alone at home. “I was attempting to combine two of my tricks, climbing through a toilet seat and trying to take my underwear off without removing my trousers.”

“I took my underwear off but then somehow it got connected to the toilet seat so I was walking through my house contorted in all these shapes – luckily nobody was there to see me. I cut myself out and luckily I was OK! And luckily nothing like that has ever happened onstage!”

It’s very rare that a show comes along like La Soirée which has such strong word of mouth; it seems nobody has a bad word to say about it! Brett proudly told me that La Soiree has made the variety art form sexy again. “We have made it relevant to a whole new generation” he said, “We are celebrating an age-old format. It has been an amazing roller-coaster ride and I have no idea what the next ten years hold!”

Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

La Soirée runs at the Southbank Centre's Spiegeltent until Sunday 11th January 2015.
Please visit for info and tickets.

Photo Credit 1: Olivia Rutherford 
Photo Credit 2: Prudence Upton
Photo Credit 3: Eric Forberger
Photo Credit 4: Magnus_Neideman

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