Cabaret review: La Clique Noel – Part 2, Festival Square Spiegeltent, Edinburgh

Bernie Dieter of La Clique PIC: Ian Georgeson
Bernie Dieter of La Clique PIC: Ian Georgeson
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She stands glittering on stage, all dark glamour in gorgeous diamond-studded high heels; she brings the microphone close to her blood-red lips and whispers: “There’s some scary sh*t going on out there these days, and we all need a bit more of THIS...”

La Clique Noel – Part 2, Festival Square Spiegeltent, Edinburgh ****

She is Bernie Dieter, the fabulous mistress of ceremonies at La Clique’s Christmas burlesque show and by “this” she means live, warm, sexy contact with other human beings, away from the “lid’l screens” that increasingly dominate our lives. And this time round, La Clique’s Christmas Show – Part Deux – seems, in the best of ways, to be Dieter’s show; shorter and tighter than last year’s offering and full of a dark, witty and defiant cabaret energy, in the face of despair, that has been instantly recognisable in western culture ever since the 1930s, but that now seems set to come into its own again.

Dieter is not alone up there, though, and if some of the show’s variety acts seem a little subdued, there’s splendid and witty supporting work from aerialist Stephen Williams, fabulous New York fire-eater Heather Holliday and Dannie Bourne’s six-piece jazz-blues band, in absolutely thrilling form. It’s not quite the cabaret at the end of the world imagined by Dieter in the fiercest song of the evening, at least not yet, but it’s a burlesque show, this year, with a driving sense of its own mood and purpose and a place for falling back in love with the human race, which makes such a hash of things, but sings a damned good song about it, to the last. - Joyce McMillan

Until 5 January