Matthew Amer gets some expert cabaret tuition from the cast of La Soirée and videos his stunning juggling and hula hooping debut for your viewing pleasure.
The sight of a glittering hula hoop being caught in part of the anatomy normally only used for sitting on is not the most comforting when you are next to be taught hoop-based tricks. I could feel my derriere pre-emptively blushing. It may even have quivered. Yet these are the challenges I bravely face as an arts journalist.
I’m in trendy Camden at the Roundhouse, where cult cabaret celebrities La Soirée have set up their eclectic camp for the winter, and eager to see what chance I have of leaving my unexciting office chair behind for a life of high jinx and circus tricks.
Turning up in jeans and a jumper is clearly a bad start as my tutors for the afternoon are far more glamorous: Mario Queen of the Circus, compere and juggler extraordinaire, is rocking a cut off leather jacket exposing just the right amount of manly tummy, while Yulia Pykhtina, who works wonders with a hula hoop, is sparkly, seductive and wholly distracting in a sheer top with glitter in all the right places. I’m less pizzazz more ‘pfft’.
But let’s put style aside – which is easy when you have very little of it – and concentrate on substance. I juggled a little at university; what else are you meant to do when studying English? Surely it will all come rushing back to me after a decade without even touching my balls (Stop it!).
Let me tell you, it’s very different juggling on a stage, with lights flashing in your eyes and heating up sweaty hands, than practising in a surprisingly small student bedroom. Balls fly off into the darkness, get lost in the lights and reappear nowhere near my hands… and this is without the pressure of a watching audience.
When Mario, who has one of the finest two-dimensional moustaches you are ever likely to see, tells me it took him years of tireless practice and reclusiveness to hone his juggling talents, I realise I wasted those years of my life. Not being sociable, but just not making good use of the reclusive tendencies.
He’s a tricky one is Mario. When I stun him with my ability to keep a trio of objects in the air, he offers me a fourth. Really? Four? You can see the predictable results in the video. I hope I haven’t given too much away.
Hula hooping, unlike juggling, is entirely new to me. As an eight-year-old I may have once or twice tried and failed at this most mystic of pastimes, but rarely in the last 20 years have I wiggled my upper body in order to keep an entertaining circle moving around my chest.
Yulia, on the other hand, makes it look as easy as, well, munching on a similarly titled potato-based snack. She is lithe while I am round; she is supple while I make planks look flexible. This is not going to go well.
It doesn’t. I stop short of injuring anyone too badly with rogue hoops, but it turns out – and this may not come as a shock to many astute readers – hula hooping is not as easy as it looks. The advice “move like a belly dancer,” unfortunately was not as helpful as it could have been, as bellydancing is not my forte either.
So I am back at my PC, writing about my failed audition as a cabaret artist. I fear I will never be as impressive as either Mario or Yulia – and believe me, they are impressive – but I did take something away from the experience. I’m typing this while wearing a short leather jacket over a see-through top. As the old saying goes “All the gear, but no idea.”