Laura Cress

Starting out as an enthusiastic reviewer for Three Weeks at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where she wrote about everything from the Poet Laureate performing in a local delicatessen to a hip hop adaptation of a Midsummer Night’s Dream, Laura took her love of writing about all things weird and wonderful with her when she moved to London, and hasn’t stopped attending performances since. She now reviews for theatre website Broadway Baby and runs the London new music and film listings website www.cultureandanarchy.com.

This Is How It Feels To Experience Music Through All Five Senses

What does music taste like? What is its scent? How does it feel on your skin? With their new production Tapestries, BitterSuite seek to provide the answers and much more in a uniquely engaging and hugely uplifting performance, that will change the way you hear – and indeed touch, smell and taste – music ever again.

At the beginning of the performance each audience member meets their guide, who is there to help them throughout the experience. Then, they are blindfolded. From here, each guide helps their own member walk, bare footed, into the concert space, where a string quartet awaits. Just the short walk towards this beginning, blind as a bat, brings up questions of trust and feelings of vulnerability which are played upon, in a positive way, throughout the performance. The complete loss of sight is extremely effective in re-tuning the everyday order of the senses – particularly important for an art form for which so much of the experience is based around listening. When visual distractions are impossible, it’s amazing what you can hear.

tapestries
Image: Bittersuite

As the music begins so too is each audience member (for there are several within the space) submerged deeper into the music by their guides. It’s a very physical experience – audience members are tapped, pressed, massaged in rhythm or in feeling with the piece of music playing at that time, their arms raised and dropped, and at one point, their bodies actually lifted in the air. Never has the musical term “movement” been so apt.

But members are guided to feel the music, not just through their ears or touch, but through every sense. A tap to the chin by a disembodied hand means it’s time to open mouths and taste whatever secret treat is waiting for them.  At certain points a scent is sprayed and slowly fills the room. It’s a strange and disorientating musical isolation tank, which encourages a different and certainly more intimate approach to appreciating music than your average concert.

The music itself is a collaboration between composer Fred Thomas and poet Kayo Cingonyi, using compositions from composer Leos Janacek. It’s at intervals frantic and chilling – but there are moments of peace. One of the most soothing parts in the whole experience comes when hearing Cingonyi’s voice drifting in-between strings. In fact, as much as relying so heavily on a stranger can at first be disconcerting, the experience in itself becomes oddly therapeutic. Very few performances require the audience members to themselves give so much to the act, but in doing so there is an unspoken bond felt between everyone in the room, as everyone works together to bring this piece of music to life.

These moments are let down occasionally by the obscurity of what is needed by the guides. There are no words or verbal commands given – members simply have to follow their movements and guess whether their guides mean them to sit or stand up or walk about the room – which at times can distract from the music being played. Equally, the food surprises don’t work quite as well as other elements in translating across to the music and seem to exist purely to add another sensory dimension to proceedings.

Nevertheless with “Tapestries” BitterSuite has managed to put on a thoughtful and unusual way for audiences to get more out of their music. At the end, as the blindfolds are slipped off, it’s almost surprising to find ourselves in just an ordinary performing space. We’ve been immersed so deeply into another world that reality feels, tastes, smells and sounds a long way away.

Tapestries will be performed in New York in December and then from January onwards in the UK in 2017. Find out more at http://www.bittersuite.org.uk


The Crazy Coqs Relaunches As “Live At Zedel”

Four years ago, tucked away in a chic little French brasserie in the centre of London,  a new cabaret venue was born. The Crazy Coqs, with the help of its exquisite art deco setting, brought “classical cabaret” back to London. From Tony award-winning Frances Ruffelle to Mad Men actor turned comfortable-cabaret-charmer Bryan Batt, the roster was ambitious, yet always entertaining.

Now, with the help of Alex Fane and United Agents, the old cabaret pin-up has been given a fresh lick of je ne sais quoi under the guise of an updated programme that still plays to its cabaret strengths, but adds a whole new dimension of comedy and theatre for audiences to laugh, sing and sip their cocktails along to.

The “Live At Zedel” programme breaks up the previous one of The Crazy Coqs with festivals and events planned in between the usual music acts. Already, befittingly for a venue basically inside an excellent French restaurant, there has been the launch of “Food Week”, where the likes of Gizzi Erskine, Levi Roots and Grace Dent have spoken about their life and love of gourmet and not so gourmet cuisine. Restaurant critic and jazz pianist Jay Rayner will also take to the stage as part of The Jay Rayner Quartet later in November, giving anyone with a love of the Floppy Haired One a chance to drop by for a night.

Restaurant critic Jay Rayner is just one of the acts lined up for Live At Zedel’s new programme.

Alex Fane has spoken about his wish to make the Crazy Coqs more a part of Soho with the “Live At Zedel” programming – and there’s surely no one more Soho than award-winning artist and author Grayson Perry. On for one night only later this month for his Typical Man In A Dress show, he’ll discuss his new book The Descent of Man as well as ideas of masculinity and identity, in-between, of course, plenty of costume changes.

But aside from nabbing Chelmsford’s most unique son, Fane has done a good job of rivalling other Soho institutions such as the Soho Theatre with, in particular, the breadth of Zedel’s comedy output. From one of the Fringe’s most talked about shows, Richard Gadd’s Monkey See Monkey Do, to “Scoundrels” – a new night for rising stand-ups to take the stage – for such a small space in central London there’s a wide range of laughs to be had.

For any Crazy Coqs stalwart bristling at the thought of change though, there’s no need to worry – United Artists have still left plenty of space for what made the venue special in the first place. The internationally acclaimed musical comedy cabaret singer Miss Hope Springs bursts onto the scene with her tongue-in-cheek tales of her life after the Pink Pelican Casino, and next month the likes of Barb Jungr, John McDaniel, Hailey Tuck and many other accomplished musicians will all be performing here as part of the London Jazz Festival. And if it’s music you want, look no further than Zedel’s new partnership with The Philharmonic Orchestra, with sections performing everything from Bach to Brahms throughout the season.

The venue itself is thankfully much the same – a glamorous, glitzy treat amongst the brashness of central London. Now with its new jam-packed programme, it just has a few extra jewels in its crown to polish.

You can find the ‘Live At Zedel’ programme here.

Stepping Out In The New Look London Wonderground

London Wonderground, the South Bank’s alternative jewel in its culture crown, is bigger and better. No longer taken over by a giant purple cow (the Udderbelly Festival), the full site comes complete with fairground rides and two new bars to compliment its jam-packed schedule of  cabaret, circus and burlesque. Never tired of hearing the phrase “two new bars”, our reporter Laura Cress went to check it out and took pictures along the way so that we had some memory of what a 2016 summer looked like.

Copyright: Laura Cress
Summer and the South Bank go together like Boris Johnson and epic blunders, and with the Udderbelly tent flying North to Edinburgh, the London Wonderground has even more outdoor space to keep its patrons happy.

 

Copyright: Laura Cress
It’s great to have even more space in the centre of London dedicated solely to alternative productions such as “Barbu”, “Briefs” and “Finger in the Pie’s Wunderfinger”. There’s also room for a three storey “Grand Saloon” bar – fitting, as by the time last orders are called there’s several people who start to walk, or stagger, like John Wayne.

 

Copyright: Laura Cress
The Star Flyer ride – one of Wonderground’s fairground attractions which lifts its passengers 65ft in the air – had a bit of hiccup over the weekend. Nevertheless, its offer of a scenic view of the South Bank, The Thames and much of London is a welcome addition to the area’s carnival atmosphere of merriment and brouhaha.

 

Copyright: Laura Cress
As with other years, whilst shows at the Wonderground are ticketed, there is free entry into the festival area to have a drink or eat a variety of street food. Whilst other areas such as Pop Brixton and BoxPark in Shoreditch have championed the outdoor street food pop up in recent years, there’s still nothing quite like sitting in the shadow of the London Eye on the banks of the Thames in the (almost) summer sun.

 

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Naturally where performances are concerned the star of the site is still the magnificent Paradiso Spiegeltent. Not unlike those originally built in Belgium in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this circular tent (of which the roof of can be spied here) provides a perfect backdrop to watch Canadian circus troupe Cirque Alfonse perform Barbu with their seriously edge-of-the-seat brand of acrobatics and just a hint of naughtiness!

 

Copyright: Laura Cress
With the entertainment over, it’s time to step out into the night to the Spiegeltent’s adjoining bar, where the party is only just beginning. London Wonderground will be running until 25 September this year, but with another impressive lineup of acts taking to the stage in this bustling, beautiful venue, even this lengthy season won’t seem like long enough.

 

More information on London Wonderground can be found on their official website

Cirque Alfonse’s Barbu will be playing until 25 September. Tickets are from £31 and include a complimentary programme. More information on that show can be found on the London Wonderground website.

 

Review: Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Leicester Square Theatre

This Is Cabaret rating ★★★★☆

To beer or not to beer?  That’s really not the question when it comes to Magnificent Bastard’s raucous production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. For this is Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare – and that means the drink’s the thing.

The idea is so simple even Bottom could grasp it. A cast of five perform Shakespeare’s comedy entirely seriously – except one of them is more King Lairy than King Lear. At the beginning of the show it’s revealed how much the chosen drunk for tonight’s performance has downed in the four hours proceeding it. As a committed journalist the two beers, one gin and tonic and quarter of a litre of vodka consumed didn’t seem like much to yours truly – but it was soon made clear that that wasn’t the case for our blottoed Lysander (Saul Marron).

The designated drunkard starts off a little flat and there’s a worry that the experience will be more like watching a pretend drunk than an actual one. Luckily, director and compere Lewis Ironside has a solution for this: at the start of the show a member of the audience is given a gong and another a horn. At any point during the performance, the duo can bang or toot their prospective instruments, and our poor Lysander has to down another pint of grog.

If it sounds like a student night played out for the audience’s amusement, that isn’t far off the mark– the atmosphere is rowdy and disorderly as audience members hoot and guffaw, whilst Lysander ad libs wildly off script. Ironside has done the right thing in keeping the production to a reasonably tight one hour in order to contain that feeling of spontaneity. It means that Bottom and his workmen’s side story from the Bard’s original script is mostly done away with – probably because there’s already enough farce as it is.

But is this one gimmick enough to make for compelling viewing? Scenes without the befuddled one do feel a little slower moving in comparison, but generally the cast do well in creating their own humorous takes on the script. Plus, with a different player selected each night to get totally Friar Tuck’d, audiences could also potentially experience a completely different performance each time – a rare feat for a play over four centuries old.

It seems fitting that Magnificient Bastard’s seven week run has started alongside the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s passing.  With the Bard’s love of bawdiness, illustrated in many of his works, this rude and inventive production feels like a breath of fresh air, yet one that equally pays homage to its original noisy Elizabethan beginnings at the Globe. And so, at the end of a chaotic hour, when the lights come up and the cast walk and stumble off in equal measures, you can be sure they exit, pursued by a beer.

 Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Leicester Square Theatre, London WC2H 7BX. 27th April – 11th June (No Sundays), 19:00pm. £18.50.  http://www.shit-facedshakespeare.com

Image: Rah Petheridge

Review: Miss Behave’s Gameshow, London Wonderground

This Is Cabaret Rating: ★★★★

Hold onto your pints, Miss Behave is back to wreak havoc upon London Wonderground once more in Miss Behave’s Gameshow, bringing her cacophony of chaotic games to the Spiegeltent and anyone who’s loud and lairy enough for the ride along with her.

As with previous incarnations our host pits audience members against each other to win points from multiple short games. It’s iPhone users against “others”, but it may as well be Braveheart versus King Edward Longshanks, so fierce is the competitive spirit whipped up by our Machiavellian mistress. Helped along by her posing partner “Harriet” (Harry Clayton-Wright as a moustachioed belle with a penchant for hot pants and wigs), Miss Behave glitters from the stage in a gold sequined outfit – but don’t be taken in by her gleaming charm. Anything goes in this camp Hunger Games, and our host tricks just as much as she treats us, cajoling us on from on high and taking and giving points as she sees fit like a kind of fabulous Disco Jesus.

The games themselves are generally quick fire rounds with names scribbled on sheets of cardboard like “Punter or Munter”, “Sanitary Sayings” and “Shazam That Riff”. Loud, screaming audience participation is demanded rather than encouraged – with the phrase “who wants it more” left to ring in our ears more than once.

The props, whilst a little lo-fi, only end up adding to the anarchic energy in their hastily designed manner. The Labour Party leader hopefuls should really think about taking our host on board for their campaigns; her ability to turn a room full of eager yet composed participants into a hot roaring mess in just over two hours is truly astounding.

In between the games are three variety acts, each more bizarre than the last. The Lords of Strut (Cian Kinsella and Cormac Mohally), an Irish comedy dancing duo wearing leotards and bomber jackets, warm up proceedings, before The Raymond and Mr Timpkins Revue take wordpunnery to the next level in their prop/music driven performance, even if their Oscar Pistorius sight gag feels a little too close to the bone.

Finally, the boys from Wonderground’s Briefs take the stage in a techno hula hoop extravaganza, with Mark “Captain Kidd” Winmill performing an increasingly insane spinning dance to the 90s classic tune No Limits whilst spitting beer and being ridden round the stage by a Fosters-swilling Aussie impersonator.

Each act manages to keep the tempo running whilst also allowing some diversity within the show – but nothing has the crowd gripped quite like Miss Behave. If you’re loud, proud or just part of the drunken crowd, Miss Behave’s Gameshow will have something for you. If you’re not sure don’t despair for by the end of the night you’ll be dancing on the stage grinning from ear to ear with the rest of them.

Miss Behave’s Gameshow returns on 18 and 25 September.

Miss Behave’s Gameshow. 4 September. London Wonderground, Southbank. £15 plus £1 booking fee online. http://www.londonwonderground.co.uk

Review: Dusty Limits’ Grin, London Wonderground

This Is Cabaret Rating: ★★★★☆

When blazing bright cabaret star Dusty Limits and his longstanding collaborator Michael Roulston bring the launch of their first ever album Grin to perform at London Wonderground’s Spiegeltent, you know you’re in for a treat.

And whilst listening to an album can never match the pair’s easy chemistry onstage, there’s still plenty to enjoy from the pair’s witty and inventive lyrics and rich rhythms, so even those who’ve missed this Wonderground extravaganza will enjoy listening to it time and time again.

Swigging from a bottle of Covonia, Limits staggers and swaggers his way through a range of moods and numbers with a fantastic three piece backing band featuring Roulston on accompanying piano (and occasional vocals). The thirteen songs on the crowdfunded Grin mostly stick to the dark, mysterious alcohol-obsessed stream of thoughts we’ve come to expect from the award-winning compere. “If you know me well you know I only write about four things: wine, death, myself and…monkeys,” he says with a twinkle in his eye, before launching into a song about, what else, being drunk.

The songs are soulful, lurching and punchy jazz melodies, occasionally sombre and reflective but often, like Imagine (Think of the Kids) peppered with humorous asides and puns, as Limits imagines with a lesbian friend what it would be like to have a child together, before quickly realising it might be better for future generations to never contemplate the thought again.

Silhouette Town is a beautiful, aching song waiting to be related to by half the nation’s lonely. Gloom-kissed lyrics such as “people are sinning in half-lit hotel rooms” illustrate Limits’s profound talent with words and spinning a story from thin air. But then in comes Reunion, a patter song very much in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Major-General’s Song as a list of those  guests attending the “reunion of my kin” is rattled off, from his “funny old Uncle George who married a gorgeous woman he received in the post” to “a Buddhist monk who dresses as a punk”. Whether upbeat or brooding, Dusty Limits’s colourful lyricism shines throughout Grin. 

On the night we’re also treated to a couple of extra songs such as the infamous and raucously sung (Don’t) Help The Aged and Dear Mr Cardinal, the latter about a certain red-hatted Scottish same sex marriage opponent, particularly upbeat and joyous given the huge leaps and bounds reached recently in this area across the world.

As the set ends with the titular track from the album, it is clear that Limits and Roulston have produced a dark, fascinating piece of work. It might not have the immediate melodramatics we’re so used to from Limit’s live performances, but that, in its own confident way, provides a slice of cabaret deviancy all of its own.

 

The album can be heard and purchased online through Bandcamp.com.

TIC Calling! These Are The Points For Alternative Eurovision 2015

Hello Wonderground – this is TIC calling. We had a fabulous night watching the Alternative Eurovision at your Spiegeltent, an evening which was packed to the rafters with the capital’s best and brightest on the cabaret scene. We simply just can’t wait to tell you our scores, so here they are…

No points (nul points) to the technical team behind the event, whose fingers seemed to keep slipping onto the wrong buttons and causing all kinds of chaos.  Unless, of course, they were simply trying to recreate the confused feel of a normal Eurovision night, in which case they should be applauded.

One point (un point) to the night’s opener Des O’Connor (Greenland) who didn’t as much sing as mime his act – but then again he was wearing the oversized head of a bear whilst dressed in a white suit, which made anything more than growling pretty difficult.

Two points (deux points) to Rayguns Look Real Enough (Germany), whose choice of costume (man in tiger onesie with a cut out belly filled by a gyrating round stomach and man in emo getup) hasn’t changed a great deal since they first tried their luck at winning the continent’s finest prize. Neither, it seems, has their patter – which came off sounding a little too rehearsed, even if their mashup medley of pop songs did get the crowd’s toes tapping.

Three points (trois points) to Ivy Paige (UK). Inevitably the island nation failed to live up to its once commendable record by putting out a far too ponderous ballad, being rather too pleased with itself, and declining to do any skirt ripping whatsoever.

Four points (quatre points) to the evening’s host Anna Greenwood. Even though she occasionally seemed to be losing the plot and forget which act was coming next, her brave and bizarre costume changes in-between acts were truly in the spirit of Eurovision. However we do hope she’s kept the receipt on many of her questionable choices for the evening.

Five points (cinq points) for one of the night’s joint winners Vikki Stone (Ireland). The luck of the Irish was certainly on Stone’s side this evening  – who’d have thought performing sexual acts on a bassoon would have netted her first place? Clearly this stand-up comedian had done her homework, taking a leaf from last year’s X-rated Polish entry.

Six points (six points) to proud Penge resident Carly Smallman (Spain) who by her own admission had been booked to appear at the last minute and had no affinity with Spain whatsoever, apart from once having eaten tapas. Nevertheless her self-penned love song – to herself – with intercuts of Bon Jovi’s Living On A Prayer (the idea being that Bon Jovi are likely to play Spain again…sometime in the next decade) was a pleasing upbeat addition to this year’s programme.

Seven points (sept points) to the ever cool Marcel Lucont (France), the other joint winner of the evening.  With his suit, bare feet and plastic cup of red wine he brought a rare moment of class to proceedings, even if he did then spoil it all by singing a tribute to Nigel Farage and UKIP in the style of Abba’s Thank You For The Music.

Eight points (huit points) to Ria Lina (Romania) and her backing dancers of two burly bandana’d  men and a tiny ballerina, who was swiftly abused as being “pale” and “too white” by our Romanian singer. Nigel Farage got another controversial mention – making him the Alternative Eurovision equivalent of Conchita Wurst.

Ten points (dix points) to Tricity Vogue representing everyone’s favourite Eurovision contestant, the British Lunar Colony. Having beamed over to us from the year 2065, “94” year old Tricity shambled on stage with the help of some nifty wheeled trainers to tell us about the good ol’ days – by singing Video Killed The Radio Star on a ukulele. It was a song that had everyone in good spirits, even though we were all far too young to understand what any of it meant.

And…

Finally…

Twelve points (douze points) go to faux female American country singer Tina C (Australia) whose confused knowledge of her chosen country (“Australasia”), her song (Waltzing Matilda – with improvised rapping), and just about everything to do with the Eurovision led to much hilarity, even if it was at the bemused entertainer’s expense.

Honourable mentions go to the night’s interval act Aurora Galore (above), who entranced us with an amazing fire show in between all the tomfoolery.

Alternative Eurovision 2015. London Wonderground. 16 May. http://www.londonwonderground.co.uk

There’s plenty more at London Wonderground this year. Gorge yourself on our exclusive roundup.

Review: The Singing Hypnotist, The Albany

Christopher Green, aka The Singing Hypnotist, teases us with old fashioned notions of stage magic and spectacle at his new show at The Albany in Depford, but save for a few brief moments of wonder, it’s difficult to be brought entirely under the spell of this showman.

Stepping on stage and casting off his broad brimmed hat and engulfing cape to reveal long flowing locks and a beaming face, Green appears for all the world like a cross between a cult leader of a Mindfulness group and an imposing Back To The Future’s Doc Brown. Perhaps it’s not surprising that our host commands such a striking presence. Not only is Green no stranger to the stage, creating multiple drag comedy characters (like country singer Tina C and hiphop granny Ida Barr) and hosting his own experimental shows, but he is also, he reminds us, a fully qualified hypnotist as well. But, as we’re encouraged to throw balloons up in the air and fling our hands about with wild abandon, I wonder if it isn’t all part of another cleverly produced character study too.

Mind you there is something soothing in Green’s patter, as he switches between songs unearthed when working alongside the British Library as their very first Artist in Residence, and short anecdotes and interactions with the audience.  Green is accompanied onstage by a single pianist, there to add simple shades of jolly and melancholy on cue. The set is also bare and minimalist, but then that’s all the better to try and stay transfixed to our hypnotic host.

And yet amongst the mystique and obvious showmanship there isn’t much else going on in The Singing Hypnotist. It isn’t clear whether Green is actually trying to use his supposedly certified powers to wow us with Derren Brown-like tricks or trying to draw attention to the false and unknown side of hypnotism.  If purely the former then the production feels too short to truly wow. A hypnotist requires a rapt audience and whilst slick there’s little substance in Green’s show to shock and awe us and more importantly to reel in the more doubtful specimens floating on the fence.

But then again, maybe that’s the point. Green muses constantly on what hypnotism actually is. Is it just a man on stage, telling people they are feeling very sleepy, or is it something we can unlock ourselves to live a more mentally fulfilling life? Is what we chant to ourselves sweatily on a thick yoga mat really just another form of hypnotism? In this respect The Singing Hypnotist may be cleverer than Green’s letting on – a meta mindfuck at once promoting the powers of mesmerism and at the same time dispelling them. Or, it could just be a show about a singing hypnotist. That’s the beauty of hypnotism, you never quite know.

Watch the trailer here.

The Singing Hypnotist.Written and performed by Christopher Green. The Albany, Deptford, London SE8 4AG. 13 May – 16 May, 8pm. £15 (£12 concessions).

 

 

Review: Jim Caruso’s Cast Party With Billy Stritch, Crazy Coqs

Jim Caruso played two sold out nights at Crazy Coqs last week.
Jim Caruso played two sold out nights at Crazy Coqs last week.

MC Jim Caruso and pianist Billy Stritch took London by storm on their debut night of Cast Party – the glitzy open mic night for cabaret and musicals flown over from the legendary Birdland Club in New York City and settling for just two nights at the Crazy Coqs. In fact, the only issue is that there isn’t more of it to see, with a hope that they’ll be coming back to our shores very shortly and bringing their velvety smooth night of jokes, japes and just about every style of fabulous with them.

The premise is a simple but fun one. Caruso acts as a slick compere for the evening’s proceedings. It’s not quite your bog standard open mic night – whilst Caruso picks names at random from the audience it’s not exactly a bunch of Averages Joe getting up on stage to warble a few notes.

The potential candidates have clearly been sifted through a fine sieve of talent before ending up as the scheduled acts on show. Each gets up on stage to sing their nominated tune without Strich or Caruso or indeed the audience having any idea what it’s going to be – and sometimes to Strich’s “delight” without any accompanying music.

This, however, rather than feeling jumbled and disorganised, just adds to the fresh and serendipitous buzz of the evening, as Strich masterfully sight-reads just about anything and Caruso slips in jokes on the fly. Although clearly handpicked there’s still a huge variety of performers, and whilst some acts invariably go down slightly better than others, there’s never really a dull moment to be had, such is the strength of talent on show.

Onto those acts and it’s hard to know where to start. On Cast Party’s debut night we’re treated to songs of all shapes and sizes and from all manner of performers. Caruso and Strich’s only ask for Cast Party is to keep things “peppy” and generally that’s what happens. There’s an 18th Century song about groats and the King’s Shilling, an “obligatory prostitute song”, the classy Sammy Davis Jr number Birth Of The Blues, Spandau Ballet’s Gold, a song from the musical Big Fish and, to round it all off in classic cabaret style, a rousing version of, what else, Life Is A Cabaret.

The performers themselves are mostly polished pros – the likes of singer and actor Rachel Tucker fresh from a spell on Broadway and accomplished musician and actor Giles Terera take to the small performing space with ease and expertise. Whilst this does mean that there is little chance of a surprise hidden talent being discovered – no one is ever really taking too much of a risk singing their chosen piece, as they’re already for the most part very established – it does make for a show-stopping, toe-tapping night of hits and high notes.

It’s easy to tell that Caruso and Stritch have been doing this in New York for some time (over 12 years in fact) as everything is incredibly polished. The pair riff off each other easily and almost seem to know what each other is about to say on several occasions. Let’s hope they read the minds of the audience at the Crazy Coqs too and come back for another round of more Cast Parties soon.

See more of what’s on offer at Crazy Coqs in March and April.

Review: Losers, The Rag Factory

Which of these reality TV wannabes deserves your vote?
Which of these reality TV wannabes deserves your vote?

Reality TV makes the jump from our screens to the stage in Losers. A production by company Tit4Twat Theatre at East London’s The Rag Factory, it follows four reality TV rejects desperate to do whatever it takes to become famous. And, although it doesn’t always have the winning formula, there’s still enough laughs and surprises to make it worth staying tuned in for the whole 60 minutes.

At the beginning of those minutes we’re told that our four performers – Arthur Jones, Rachel Johnson, Sophie Thompson and Will Barratt – are reality TV wannabes who can’t seem to get a (TV) break. Determined to get their 15 minutes of fame, they’ve had a rather entrepreneurial idea (what a shame they never tried out for Dragon’s Den). They’re fed up of being rejected from the auditions of their favourite TV shows so the team have decided to create their own reality game show to “highlight” their talents to the industry, and finally get the big break (they think) they all deserve.

Which, as with any “good” reality show, is where us audience folk come in. Given an electronic handset with buttons on, we’re told to vote for one of the group depending on their performance during each themed round. Who had the most convincing sob story? Who deserves to shine more, the person who has slept with the least people or the person who has slept with the most? Who has the best body? Each short round offers up a different question and a chance for our hopefuls to prove their worth on, from which we then scurry to our handsets to vote.

Of course it wouldn’t be reality TV without consequences, and for our performers these take the appearance of increasingly ramped up forfeits for the person with the lowest percentage of votes scored each round to take. Perhaps the fact that Losers was created from the four actors’ University of Warwick dissertation performance explains why the forfeits have a slight “University Sports Club Initiation” feel rather than the “16 plus” punishments promised. These penalties may be a little childish but they do still help create an ethical quandary that would have been interesting to have seen developed even further. As the performers are receiving the forfeit along with their characters, it’s real people in front of us that we’re punishing, not just two dimensional personalities, which can make pushing the button that extra bit difficult.

This is where Losers shines –  examining how much harsher we judge people on our TV screens and how we can often forget that even the most moronic contestant is still a real human being, and exploring them through our own audience actions. It’s not quite the thought-provoking Black Mirror episode it thinks it is – one or two rounds feel tacked on and the satire isn’t as sharp as Charlie Brooker’s biting script. However, with a higher budget and more direction, this unique snapshot of our judgemental age would certainly get my vote.

Losers. The Rag Factory, London E1. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 7.30pm, 9 January – 1s February inclusive. £8