Cabaret in London: 2012 preview

The cabaret shows we're most looking forward to in 2012

Time Out's Cabaret Editor, Ben Walters, opens his shiny new 2012 diary to cast an eye over the highlights of the year ahead, from retro charms to satirical savvy

It’s the economy, stupid

Toxic Bankers Toxic Bankers

As you might have noticed, society is falling to bits and you can expect to see more explicitly political work in 2012. Start with ‘The Winter of Our Discontent’ (Arcola Tent, January 17-19), in which Dusty Limits convenes a stunning line-up to put the world to rights; in February, study ‘Rioting for Dummies: A Beginner’s Guide to Modern Britain’ (Dugdale Theatre, dates TBC) from the gang behind Finger in the Pie; and then it’s rotten tomatoes at the ready for ‘Toxic Bankers’ (Leicester Square Theatre, March 7-April 14), a new musical co-written by Des O’Connor.

Welcome back

La JohnJoseph La JohnJoseph

Some of our favourite monthly nights are revving up for the new year. January 19 sees the return of both Ophelia Bitz’s sex-positive pornfest ArtWank! (RVT) and the Lynchian phantasmagoria that is the Double R Club (Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club), while experimental narrative burlesque night Burlexe begins a monthly residency at Shadow Lounge on February 22. On January 25, the delectable Myra Dubois launches her new monthly musicals-themed night Sing Out, Louise! (RVT); while at Leicester Square Theatre, Miss Hope Springs presents more of her original showtunes (February 2-10). Ovalhouse Theatre offers a terrific chance to catch La JohnJoseph’s three sharp and affecting memoir shows in rep in the form of ‘Boy in a Dress’ (February 14-March 3). Eyes peeled at the RVT later in the year for the return of Bob Downe (June 20-July 18) and the Hot August Fringe alt performance fest.

Big hitters

Bryony Kimming's 7 Day Drunk Bryony Kimming's 7 Day Drunk

Legendary NYC performance artist Penny Arcade brings her iconic signature piece ‘Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!’ to the Arcola Tent (June 27-July 22); its lacerating satire and radical openness have never been more resonant. This year’s expanded South Bank Spiegeltent zone, dubbed the ‘London Wonderground’, plays host to grand-scale Aussie spectacle Cantina (think La Soirée with more circus) from May 8 to September 29. Chaz Royal’s World Burlesque Games 2012 rock up May 7-13 – that’s this year’s London Burlesque Week, with boys, girls, freaks and newbies strutting their stuff at several venues. Bryony Kimmings’s latest all-singing, all-dancing art-therapy spectacular, ‘7 Day Drunk’, brings her experiments with inebriated creativity to the Soho Theatre March 14-31 and delirious physical comedy troupe Spymonkey promise a mish-mash of Greek tragedy and 007 mayhem in ‘Oedipussy’ (Lyric Hammersmith, April 10-21).

New directions

Scottee - 'Camp' at Roundhouse Scottee - 'Camp' at Roundhouse

On February 2, Timberlina starts a six-month stint of playful events at the National Portrait Gallery, taking in nature, nurture, sex and individuality with the likes of Boogaloo Stu, David Mills and Bourgeois & Maurice on hand. Scottee shows no signs of slowing down, with weekly runs of fatty pageant Burger Queen at the RVT in March, a new light-ent-themed romp ‘Camp’ at the Roundhouse in April and a ‘Worst of Scottee’ showcase at the Soho Theatre in October. He also gets a director credit on Amy Lamé’s Unhappy Birthday at the Camden People’s Theatre (May 1-12), which promises to be a highly interactive Morrissey-themed celebration of bookish, queer fatsos – and their friends – everywhere.

Celebrating heritage

Mat Ricardo's London Varieties Mat Ricardo's London Varieties

February 9 sees the launch of Mat Ricardo’s London Varieties (BGWMC), a monthly show combining new comedy and variety with a veteran headliner who will then sit down for an interview. Expect old-school showbiz royalty. CircusFest 2012 takes over the Roundhouse March 28-April 29, including the world premiere of Professor Vanessa’s Wondershow (April 23-29), a walkabout spectacle drawing extensively on Sheffield’s National Fairground Archive. We’re also intrigued by Wilton’s Music Hall’s immersive adaptation of ‘The Great Gatsby’ (April 20-May 19), which promises to cross-fertilise music-hall Britain and Jazz-Era America, and Carnesky’s Tarot Dome (September/ October, details TBC) in which the magic deck comes to life – on rollerskates! ‘Louise Bourgeois meets Holiday on Ice’, we’re told…

In the works

Uncle David

The fucked-up family show of the year just might be ‘Uncle David: The Musical’, the stage version of David Hoyle and Ashley Ryder’s feature film, expected at the Soho Theatre. We’re on tenterhooks to see what happens at Bistrotheque, whose performance room is closing following last hurrahs from Jonny Woo, Bourgeois & Maurice, the LipSinkers and David Mills – hopefully to reopen bigger and better around April. Expect to see Nathan Evans’s utopian showcase ‘I Love You but We Only Have Fourteen Minutes to Save the Earth’ at several venues around town and the White Mischief gang doing something in a treehouse in Regent’s Park in June.