Day: August 1, 2016

Finger In The Pie Waves Goodbye And Gives Us All The Wunderfinger

Some go out with a bang and some with a whimper but, in true cabaret style, iconic cabaret company Finger In the Pie are blasting out in style by giving us all the Wunderfinger. Charming.

With its two final shows on 2 and 16 August, Finger In The Pie will be waving goodbye to a cabaret scene that it has been part of for over a decade.

Run by Alexander Parsonage and Flavia Fraser-Cannon, its regular shows at Madame Jojo’s featured many up-and-coming artists who are now revered across the variety spectrum, not least drag queens Myra DuBois and Michael Twaits, musical comedy’s Bourgeois & Maurice and mime artist Doctor Brown.

They were behind the Mimetic Festival which for a number of years brought some of the best theatre and cabaret shows around to Enfield and the Vaults in Waterloo; the shows gave a valuable platform to some of the fiercest acts to wander onto a stage, not least utterly filthy trio The Ruby Darlings and drag terrorist Baby Lame. They have also run classes in drag, character comedy and spoken word at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern and Soho Theatre with expert practitioners passing on their experience and knowledge to the next generation.

It’s Baby Lame who leads the charge on the last Finger In The Pie show. Named Wunderfinger, it also features the London Cabaret Award-winning Lilly Snatchdragon, clowns Pi The Mime, Kiki Lovechild and Holli Dillon, aerialist Josie-Beth Davies and fiery duo The Fire Factory.

Quite what that talented crew have in store for us during this adults-only show is anyone’s guess but, however they wave goodbye, Finger In The Pie will leave some mighty large boots to fill.

Finger In The Pie’s Wunderfinger will be at London Wonderground on 2 and 16 August. Tickets are £15 including a £1 booking fee and the show is strictly 18+. More information can be found on the London Wonderground website.


Review: Barbu, London Wonderground

Barbu is, at heart, a high energy, chaotic mixture of acrobatics, object manipulation and beards. Especially beards. Based around a great cast of six multi-skilled performers, a clown character and four musicians, it has a range which is thoroughly explored throughout the seventy-five minutes or so of a production that is unashamedly fun and a reminder of what a pure joy circus can be at it’s best.

Sitting in the front row at the Spiegeltent, I could taste the beer that flies from a keg, feel the sweat hit me, and feel the aerialist come within touching distance as she swings past. It is really a great experience. There are some large scale productions that need the grandeur of a bigger spaces – but it is wonderful to be this close to the action is such a lovely venue for a show that really fits here.

Cirque Alfonse came to London last year with their show Timber which was cuter and more family friendly. This show is much better, though lacks some of the coherence of it’s predecessor. The costumes are a bit all over the place, sort of east London hipster, meets traditional circus, meets nonsense. Sometimes this works well, at others there seems to be lack of clear or consistent thinking.

This lack of finishing off encroaches into other parts of the show. There is a mentalist who brings in some elements of comic release – but seems a bizarre character that isn’t fully formed. I’m really not sure why he is strung up and beaten and attacked with custard pies towards the end. I didn’t feel like he had particularly deserved it.

Thematically, the most interesting part of the show is the exploration of masculinity. “Barbu” means “bearded” in French (the company are Quebecois) and by embracing this so traditionally manly look while at the same time satirising it and opening it up for ridicule, the company tap into a wide range of debates on gender that are very present. The childlike “girly” ribbon twirling to counter the big manly acrobatics at one point is a great juxtaposition. The feminine eye makeup the cast wear in the production photos is another example of refusing to recognise traditional gender norms.

A point in the show touches on homo-eroticism quite casually which raises a pertinent question: what makes a manly man manly? That further begs the question, what role do the two female performers take? While masculinity is clearly being questioned here, the beardless find themselves in much more familiar gender territory: an aerial hoop performance is done in stockings and suspenders and a nearly naked girl is put in a box that is cut in half by the magician. There is one moment where we see a video clip of a girl shaving her face, but it’s a small detail. Perhaps it would have made more sense to either have no women in this show – or to decide how they would fit into the meta-issues being explored.

If the entire production feels a little incoherent, at times that is also one of it’s strengths. It really could go anywhere. The music all played live veers from something epic and grand, to a sort of hybrid disco that sounds like it could have been the soundtrack to an 80s video game. There are some great set pieces – and the real strength comes from the four male performers who juggle cups and clubs together, make giant acrobatic shapes and show off on teeter-board. Their energy is infectious and they manage to be both highly competent and show-manlike, while equally ridiculous and charming. One act where a performer uses a cyr wheel while wearing a giant squidgy disco ball around their waist is a perfect example of this.

Ultimately this is a high flying spectacular show that leaves you feeling uplifted. It may be daft, but it’s skilful enough to make you leave aside any cynicism. It may not have thought through all the answers, but there is enough engaging imagery and ideas to give Barbu a unique sense of character. It will also help you to escape life’s realities for a brief while and, sometimes, that is the very best thing a show can do.

This Is Cabaret rating ★★★★

Barbu continues at London Wonderground until 25 September. Ticket prices start at £31 and include a programme worth £10 with each ticket. More information can be found on the London Wonderground website.