The Hippodrome opened as a theatre next to London’s Leicester Square in 1900, and is now a vast three-floor casino, which also houses a cabaret theatre. The Hippodrome, in an earlier incarnation, was where chariot races were run in Ancient Rome, and a connection between the two is provided by the latest entertainment in the cabaret theatre. Such decadence has seldom been witnessed since the fall of the Roman Empire!
A cabaret with circus acts, Blanc de Blanc takes champagne as its central theme, and there is much popping of corks and outpouring of the fizzy nectar from stage to audience. Patrons must also be prepared to have scantily clad artistes land lasciviously in their laps. A sign at the entrance warns theatre-goers that the show includes full-frontal nudity and – horror of horrors! – references to alcohol. This is certainly not a show for devotees of the temperance movement.
But there is much more than flesh and fizz on display. With a darkly sardonic French maître de cérémonies linking the acts, the audience is wowed by a succession of astonishing feats of physical prowess and daring invention, powered along by a soundtrack and festooned with an array of unlikely costumes (some of them barely there) which clearly benefit from the Production House’s experience of touring with Madonna. The artistes display circus skills of the highest order. Acrobatics, mime, contortion, gymnastics, breakdance, limbo – what don’t they do? A woman disappears head first into a large blob. Hula hoops are spun multifariously. Unexpected things are done with a hotel luggage cart, there are Romanesque cavortings around a foam bath, and I hesitate to say where a Roman candle is stuck.
Yes, there is definitely a flavour of Roman decadence about this champagne-fuelled cabaret. The mad emperor Elagabalus used to end his parties with a torrent of rose petals cascading down on the guests. The audience here were treated to a flurry of foam bubbles cascading down on them. A fitting end to a frothy and fun-filled evening which is not for the faint-hearted or one’s maiden aunt!