INTERNATIONAL adult variety show La Clique returns to Edinburgh for a festive mix of circus, cabaret and burlesque to get temperatures rising until January 5.

Hosted by Bernie Dieter, the “Queen of Weimar punk kabarett” and star of this year’s Fringe hit The Little Death Club, La Clique Noel – Part Deux sees a cast of performers return to the Festival Square Spiegeltent following their success there at Christmas last year.

Backed by a full live band, performers include gentleman juggler Florian Brooks, aerialist Stephen Williams, magician Paul Zenon and Heather Holliday, the New York sword-swallower and fire-breather who made her La Clique debut in 2017. New for La Clique Noel – Part Deux is Mosh, a glamorous burlesque performer from Russia and Fancy Chance, a multi-skilled artist whose signature act is hair hanging.

“It’s gobsmacking what she does, she actually flies around the room by her hair,” says David Bates, the man who introduced the Spiegeltent to the Edinburgh festival in the mid-1990s and who staged the first edition of La Clique there in 2004.

Bates says seeing Chance reminded him of those early days, when world-class adult variety and vaudeville artists lacked the platform La Clique went on to provide. Since then, there’s been such a boom that circus and variety has its own section in the Fringe programme.

“There were so many artists in that original show who would take your breath away,” he says. “Fancy Chance’s show has a couple of moments where you are actually stunned by what she does, like I was then.”

Charged as “keeping the brand alive for the last 15 years”, Bates says La Clique Noel – Part Deux is the best version yet.

“I have to say this is most fabulous version of the show that’s been created since its inception,” he says. “I liked the show last year but this is even a few notches above that. The calibre of artists we have is just superb.”

One such artist is Heather Holliday. A sword-swallower, fire-breather and regurgitator, she first saw La Clique at home in New York in 2006 as a teenager when she was the youngest female sword swallower in the world.

“Miss Behave, the sword swallower in La Clique at the time, invited me to see the show when I was working my first job at the freak show in Coney Island,” says Holliday. “I obsessed with La Clique and she was such a role model for me. It was my first time in the Speigeltent and my jaw was on the floor all night. I was like: ‘Holy craapppp!’”

Since then, Holliday has toured nationally and internationally and made her own La Clique debut last year, when her act included a six-sword swallow.

“I pushed myself as far as I could,” she says. “It was really hard doing six swords every single day. I couldn’t eat after 2pm. So this year, it’s more about trying to be creative over being technically skilled.”

She adds: “For my first swallow, I decided to do something that’s a bit creative, a bit silly. For me, swallowing one sword is a bit boring, I have to keep it interesting for myself.”

Bates says that La Clique has heightened resonance in troubled times.

“It’s a very strange world at the moment,” he says. “People are told they have to be a certain way. I think there’s a message to be had in terms of leaving your troubles behind and celebrating difference and diversity.”

Until Jan 5, Festival Square Spiegeltent, Lothian Road, Edinburgh, various times, from £21.50. Tel: 0131 510 0395.