Variety nights and cabaret shows
Check out the variety nights and cabaret shows that are popping up all over London
Think of variety shows and the chances are you’ll cringe at memories of being force-fed dire entertainment at a Butlin’s holiday camp as a youth, or enduring so-bad-they’re-embarrassing shows in Blackpool.
Fast-forward to 2007, though, and variety clubs are thoroughly modern affairs. Sure, you’ll still be sitting down looking towards a stage, but chances are you won’t be yawning through some has-been West End musicals star’s set; you’re more likely to see a girl wrap herself up in gaffa tape and undo it with her teeth, some burlesque housewives cleaning up a storm in yellow gloves and not much else, or perhaps some fire-breathers and knife-throwing masters.
Stand-up comedy and cabaret singers still get their time in the spotlight, but they’ll be bright young things with a twisted sparkle in their eye and a penchant for subverting trad standards – Dusty Limits’ take on ‘Birds and Bees’, anyone?
Chris Fitchew, MC at Scarlet Fever, recognises that it can sometimes be a bit hit and miss: ‘We wanted a show that mixed only the best of the best. Many cabaret's I went to before, always had one good act and a whole bunch of very poor. I wanted to show an audience that variety is not old school “end of the pier” type entertainment, so I drafted in all the lead singers from West End Shows, only headline comedians, and real talent when it came to anything dance and variety.
I like it always to be high energy, so istead of sultry burlesque, and old school crooners, our show will be rock, pop, power ballads followed by high energy comedians like Phil Nichol, Alan Carr and Tina C, followed by a troup of breakdancers, or Brazilian Capoeira dancers.’
‘Variety today is the more unusual side of entertainment,’ says Tom Pullen, artistic director of Finger In The Pie, ‘and not in the cheesy way that a lot of people expect. It’s a lot darker and more risque. We hunt all over the internet in search of our acts, and over 100 people applied for our first show in January. It’s important to get a nice balance of acts. The last one had a Tommy Cooper-esque magician who hosted the night, and we like to have a couple of cutting-edge burlesque acts in there. We’re a big fan of sketch comedy, too.’
All That Jazz! starts this Sunday at the plush Soho Revue Bar, but while co-host Dusty Limits is excited, his feet are firmly on the ground.
‘I think that there’s a certain amount of hyping it up because there are these things on television like ‘When Will I Be Famous?’ which are creating the impression that variety and cabaret is this big thing, but it’s not. I’ll get really excited when a West End theatre reopens as a variety theatre. Having said that, it’s the most exciting that cabaret has been in the eight years that I’ve lived in London. The thing with cabaret is that you make a direct connection to the person performing; they’re performing to you and can’t hide behind anything, which is great, especially if they’re fab. And it’s short, of course, and you can drink. In this attention deficit age, the shows are short and the drinks are plentiful and we can certainly understand the appeal.’
Scarlet Fever is this Saturday, All That Jazz is this Sunday, both at the Soho Revue Bar. Finger In The Pie is this Sunday at Madame Jo Jo’s.
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