This Is Cabaret

This Is Cabaret is the only online publication dedicated entirely to London’s variety scene. Founded by experienced journalists who have covered cabaret, burlesque and circus for years, it is your number one destination to keep up with the overwhelming diversity of the world’s richest cabaret circuit.

Soho Estates Change Their Mind: New Madame Jojo’s Will Be “Something Very Different”

Madame Jojo's in brighter times.Read more


Soho Estates have announced that, when the scaffolding around the Madame Jojo’s venue eventually comes down next year, there will be “something very different”.

John James, MD of Soho Estates and Paul Raymond’s son-in-law, exclusively filled us in on the details. “Look, I’ll be honest. When we originally shuttered the place in 2015, we were secretly hoping to turn the whole block into something the area was crying out for: swanky apartments privately sold in roubles or riyads, another hummus restaurant, a sex offender community centre disguised as a sex toy emporium and a cashpoint that charged you either an arm or a leg to take your own money out.”

James has had second thoughts, though. “We brought in a firm of analysts to look at the area and right away they saw a hole in the market. It was staring us in the face the whole time yet we couldn’t see the wood for the trees. Sometimes it takes highly paid consultants with zero in the way of sartorial imagination to point out the bleeding obvious.”

The report by R. Soles favoured a commercial opportunity which had emerged over the last few years and which Soho Estates is keen to capitalise on. James continued, “the consultants pointed out that a number of LGBT venues had closed down and we all know the gays love a singsong and a bit of the old cross-dressing. There are so few places around now that the poor fellows are now resorting to using phone apps like Grindr to find love and companionship.

“Thankfully, so many of our local competitors are going to the wall that, when we get round to finally opening Jojo’s as a cabaret nightclub, it will be something of a novelty in Soho. And where better than a venue which used to have great variety, drag and burlesque nights before it became an expensive and dark drinking den with occasional stage entertainment.”

The new Madame Jojo’s is scheduled to open in 2018.

Who Are The UK’s Top 20 Burlesque Performers?

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Industry website 21st Century Burlesque has revealed the results of its latest annual opinion poll sponsored by Sublime Boudoir and announced the top 50 burlesque performers in the world as voted for by their peers and members of the public.

While the final results reflect the site’s largely American readership, extra lists have been produced which reflect how the international artistes fared in their own country. As identified by the site, below are the top twenty  performers from or based in the UK.

1. Betsy Rose (global #12, last year UK #8, above)

2. Vicky Butterfly (global #14, last year UK #2)

3. Velma Von Bon Bon (global #24, last year UK #9)

4. Reuben Kaye (global #32, last year UK #10)

5. Rubyyy Jones (global #35, last year UK #4)

6. Kitty Bang Bang (global # 40, last year UK #3)

7. Lolo Brow (global #42, last year UK #13)

8. Lou Safire (global #43, last year UK #7)

9. Havana Hurricane (global #46, last year UK #5)

10. Cece Sinclair (last year UK #14)

11. Bettsie Bon Bon (last year UK #19)

12. Polly Rae (last year UK #6)

13. Lady Wildflower (last year UK #15)

14. Lilly Snatchdragon (last year UK #11)

15. Felicity Furore (N/A)

16. Aurora Galore (last year UK #1)

17. Tom Harlow (N/A)

18. Eliza DeLite (last year UK #16)

19. Amber Topaz (N/A)

20. Raven Noir (N/A)

Congratulations to Betsy Rose, one-third of the Gin House Burlesque troupe alongside Missy Fatale and Jolie Papillon. Ranking twelfth overall in the 2016 global rankings, she takes over the UK top spot from Aurora Galore who has fallen to #16; the latter may have been affected by her online meltdown to our review of her show Glamorous Weirdo.

Lolo Brow, winner of the top prize at the inaugural Burlesque Awards is joined in the latest poll by her Family Fierce comrade Lilly Snatchdragon. Miss Brow, who delivered our annual Alternative Christmas Message, is one of the fastest climbers up the poll alongside singer and compere Reuben Kaye (who can be seen from this week hosting Seven Sins at Cafe de Paris), his Seven Sins co-star Bettsie Bon Bon, Between The Sheets performer and producer Polly Rae and acrobatic clown Velma Von Bon Bon.

New faces for 2016 include Felicity Furore (part of the House of Q who return with a new show on 18 January), Scottish boylesquer Tom Harlow, Northern songbird Amber Topaz and performer and Burlesque Noir producer Raven Noir.

Image: Franco Milazzo



January’s Craziest Circus Shows In London

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If you’re in the capital this month,  you’re perfectly placed to see one of these fabulous circus shows.


La Soiree

The double Olivier Award-winning variety show is coming to the run of its latest run in London, the city where it first began. You have until Saturday to check out a company which includes amazing acrobats The English Gents, hilarious contortionist Captain Frodo, high-heeled trapeze artist Jarred Dewey before it leaves its spiritual home.

The final show is on January 8 and more information can be found on the official website. Meantime, here is what Hamish McCann, one half of the Gents, gets up to on the Chinese pole.


NoFit State’s Bianco is a unique circus show which is less about sit-and-watch, more about stand-and-gawp. To the sound of a live band, the audience are led around the big top as numerous spectacular acts happen in front, around and above them.

Bianco runs until 22 January on the South Bank and more information can be found on the official website. Here is a taster of their show from their New York run in May 2016.

Cirque du Soleil’s Amaluna

The biggest brand name in modern circus touches down again at the Royal Albert Hall with an updated version of their 2016 extravaganza. Loosely inspired by William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Amaluna’s storyline revolves around a group of men who, during a storm, find themselves washed up on an island governed by goddesses. Unsurprisingly, love and acrobatics ensue. The show is notable for having a cast that is 70% female.

Amaluna runs from 12 January through to 26 February and more information can be found on the official website. Here is the official trailer.

Becoming Shades

This year’s Vaults Festival features Chivaree Circus who bring their debut show Becoming Shades to one of most exciting performance spaces around under Waterloo station. A re-imagining of the classic myth of Persephone told through contemporary circus, this London-based troupe take inspiration from the words of James Joyce for a production which brings together live music, aerial acrobatics, fire, dance and mime, Becoming Shades is a story of empowerment, love and choices.

The show runs from 25-29 January and more information can be found on the official website. Here is the official trailer.

West London Cabaret Venue The Aeronaut Gutted After NYE Blaze

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West Acton cabaret venue The Aeronaut was ablaze last night just half an hour after partygoers saw in the New Year.

The “Circus Spectacular” show featured compere Ria Lina and performers fire burlesquer Aurora Galore, comedy music act Rayguns Look Real Enough, clown Dmitri Hatton and circus artistes Jess Love, Le Renn, Silver Lining’s Niamh O’Reilly and Angeliki Nikolakaki.

Around 340 revellers and 12 staff fled the Aeronaut when the alarm was raised. Online footage obtained by the BBC and The Mirror shows the venue alight as over 70 members of the London Fire Brigade tackled the flames. The LFB rescued six people from a first-floor flat above the pub; the neighbouring police station was evacuated too. Three police officers who assisted in tackling the fire are being treated for smoke inhalation. The London Ambulance Service said it took five patients to hospital suffering from ‘minor injuries’.

The venue has been seriously damaged. An LFB spokesman said, “Half of the ground floor of the building is alight. The first and second floors, including the roof of the three-storey building, have been gutted by the fire.” The blaze was finally brought under control by 5am.

The cause of  the fire is not yet known. The police have said the cause was not believed to be suspicious while the LFB have said it was unknown.

Matt Blair (son of TV celebrity Lionel and part of musical act Rayguns Look Real Enough) wrote on Twitter about the night’s events.

According to The Metro, Blair said that he had heard that ‘some idiot’ used a candle to light a branch on a Christmas tree but he was unable to verify this.

Image: @AbdulYusuf


Be Upstanding For Our Alternative Christmas Message From Lolo Brow

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Last Christmas, we gave you our heart*. This Christmas, we have something else in mind.

Put down that mince pie, switch off the TV for a few minutes and watch this. Yes, now. We’ll keep this short as you probably have oodles to do like Snapchatting your Christmas jumper, opening that cheeky red from the banks of Lake Aldi or wondering when the Bond film will start.

2016 was a desperately sad one on the musical icon front. And the film and TV icon front. As well as the EU referendum front. Plus the US Presidential elections front. Let’s be honest: by December, we pretty much ran out of fronts to be happy about.

The good news is that Lolo Brow, London’s favourite burlesque/drag superstar, has a special message for you. Earlier this year, she won the top prize at the inaugural Burlesque Awards and, between appearances in the sell-out Family Fierce panto, she found time to make us this exclusive video. In this most tumultuous of years, she has prepared something which comes straight from the heart, the head and the liver. So what does she have to say about it all? Roll VT to find out.

* We later found out that the very next day you gave it away. Looks like we’re not the only one that is heartless.

Check out our 2013 Alternative Christmas Message from Myra DuBois

Or our 2014 Alternative Christmas Message from Holestar

Or maybe even out 2015 Alternative Christmas Message from Virgin Xtravaganzah

For Those Experiencing Not So Happy Holidays…

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“Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, “treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor…I am Pagliacci.” Alan Moore, Watchmen 


As the more astute amongst you may have noticed, this is the party season. We would normally be happy pointing out where one can let their hair down as they see in 2017 but there are more important things we could be talking about.

Between the double whammy of the Christmas festivities and New Year’s Eve, there’s plenty of social pressure to put on a big fat smile and be jolly. Don’t you dare appear unhappy or lonely or The Grinch will eat you up whole.

Unfortunately, the dark clouds of winter are not just up in the sky. Gloomy thoughts are not uncommon, nor are feelings of loneliness, loss or failure. For those suffering from depression, this season can seem one long endless night with only the black dog for company.

We won’t pretend there’s a magic cure for any of that but, if it sounds like we’re describing you, talk to someone if you can. Drop us a message in the comments if you want. This may be a website but it is staffed and read by flesh-and-blood human beings. That first step will likely be the hardest but could bring the greatest reward.

This Christmas and New Year’s Eve, whether you’re in company or not, don’t feel that you’re alone in feeling alone. There are many organisations out there that will be glad to talk to you. Here are a few that we can recommend. Please let us know if there are others that should be added.

MIND is an organisation that aims to make sure nobody has to face a mental health problem by themselves. The MIND infoline is 0300 123 3393.

It’s an old cliche perhaps to call a Samaritan, but then the Samaritans do such wonderful work. You can talk to them around the clock on 116 123. You can ring that number from landlines and mobiles, and has two main advantages: first, that it is free to call and, second, that it won’t show up on phone bills. You can also just send them an email, and be as anonymous as you need to be. Even if it’s just to say hello. Mail, and someone will reply.

The Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline is staffed by volunteers who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans. They will listen to anything that is on your mind and have information on LGBT support and social groups. They can be contacted on 0300 330 0630 from 10am-10pm and you can also email and message them.

CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, aimed at young men feeling unhappy. It has a web chat service, and freephone phone lines. You can find its website here.

PAPYRUS is a group that supports teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal. You can call them on 0800 068 4141.

The Depression Alliance can help those around you gain a better understanding of what depression is, and how it affects you. It has a directory of support groups around the country, here.

SAMH is the Scottish Association For Mental Health, and it has an excellent website right here.

Students Against Depression’s website is full of resources and information. It’s just as useful for those worried about a friend as it is if you’re facing depression yourself.

Maytree supports people feeling suicidal, but in a non-medical setting. Its website is here.

Lastly, for those of you worried about a friend or relative, The Samaritans have a wonderful piece of guidance.

The editors and contributors at This Is Cabaret wish everyone a happy 2017.

Image: Puddles Pity Party

The Inside Story Of Circus Spectacular Bianco

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We’ve already told you how much we loved NoFit State Circus’ Bianco. When they invited us to come down to join in their training and meet some of their core crew, we jumped at the chance. Belinda Beveridge reports.

Walking into NoFit State Circus’s Big Top tent and my immediate reaction is “how beautiful!”. In the early afternoon before performance, the empty space is crackling with the atmosphere of things to come.

I’m here for a workshop with Cardiff-based company, NoFit State, whose tent for the contemporary circus show Bianco has landed, spaceship-like, in the Winter Festival at the Southbank. Inside the big top, it is more like one of the gorgeous aliens from new sci-fi flick Arrival: scaffold-like metallic arms stretch upwards, challenging and inviting interaction.

Before I try the counterweight ropes by climbing up these same scaffolds and attempting juggling and hula hooping, I meet Lyndall Merry, head of rigging and performer (trapeze) and the architect of the tent I’m gazing at.

Merry tells me that I am not the only fan of the intricate rigging and I ask where the inspiration for the elaborate setup came from.

The answer he says, is constant collaboration between long-standing NoFit State director, Firenza Guidi, and the riggers. It is Lyndall’s job to translate creative ideas into practice but sometimes they simply don’t happen. This is either because “technical implications far outweigh the benefit of the image” – the classic tension in the creative process between concept and its execution – or, less glamorously, because of safety.

It is this latter aspect that is at the heart of how they operate – something that is not surprising for the dangers inherent in circus – but more interesting is how enthusiastic he is to talk about safety’s role in the creative process.

“There are shows that run on a big production scale and they don’t want their artists to have any information in their brains, because they want their artist to be the best they can possibly be as artists,” he says.

NoFit State takes a contrary view. Their performers must have an in-depth working knowledge of their equipment and the risks across the range of what they are asked to do. During each performance of Bianco, the acrobats double up as performing artists and technical crew: they set up the technical cues, push scenery around the tent and act as counterweights for acrobats.

“The performance exposes the risk.”

This approach to laying bare their show’s innards is to the team an essential aspect of circus, demonstrating the trust and the community element and it is part of the magic for performers and for the audience watching it. “The performance exposes the risk,” explains Lyndall. “And the fact that people do extraordinary things that are risky and but are doing them without bad consequences, that’s the thrill that’s what makes it entertainment.”

“A lot of [our reviews] talk about the feeling of community and support in among the tent that is there between the performers. It’s very much part of the magic of this aesthetic,” he adds.

Circus has actually become safer over the years, even as the creativity and feats have become more inventive. According to technical production manager John Kirk, this is because safety and creativity now work alongside each other whereas, in the past, the two worlds have been very much separate.

For each intricate and considered vision of creativity, there has to be a structure to back it up. Lyndall tells me of examples like “using rigging made of chocolate,” or “making water flow uphill” that he might be asked to create, illustrating the challenge and the ingenuity in his role that is as significant as that required by other members of NoFit State.

Aside from insight into how Bianco’s big top experience has come together, the workshop itself gives me a fine idea of my physical limits and but there’s not enough time to really explore them. We can’t all be in the circus, but we can enjoy feeling part of it in a style that puts us in the thick of it, and which exposes the guts as well as the glory.

Bianco is at London’s Southbank Centre (in the Winter Festival gardens) until 22 January 2017.

Words: Belinda Beveridge
Image: Tristram Kenton

EXCLUSIVE: Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival 2017 Announces Show Schedule

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The award-winning Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival (HBBF) returns for its fifth year in 2017 with another fun-packed four-day event

In March, the festival announced that they had been successful in a bid to secure funding from Arts Council England. Believed to be the first time that ACE has contributed to an event of this kind, the grant was used to fund an outstanding series of shows which featured local, UK and international talent including American superstar Perle Noire. At The Burlesque Awards in London this September, the festival was named the Best Festival/Event.

HBBF is now established as one of the highlights of the UK cabaret calendar and it is a shining light in the Yorkshire burlesque revolution which has seen brilliant new shows appear in Sheffield and Leeds. The 2017 festival will take place over 27-30 April 2017 and, while, the full-line up won’t be revealed for another couple of weeks, the veil has been lifted on the show schedule.

All shows will be at Hebden Bridge’s Little Theatre unless otherwise stated.


Turn up at 7.30pm for the latest Legend In The Making competition. This may be for newer performers but the talent levels among last year’s contestants were impressive and the bill featured an international cast; last year’s winner, boylesquer Uma Shadow, came all the way from Las Vegas and is coming all the way back to hand the crown onto the 2017 winner. The fun continues at 10.15pm with a new show called The Late Night Quickie, a dark and dangerous hour of envelope-pushing cabaret.



Get that Friday feeling at the 7.30pm show Laugh  Your Knickers Off Comedy Cabaret and then stick around for the return of one of last year’s absolute highlights Diversitease at 10.30pm.



Kicking off at noon and back by popular demand is Tina T’urner Tea Lady with her own full-length solo show. That’s followed at 2.30pm by the much-anticipated debut by Kiki Lovechild and Pi The Mime. Kiki blew away last year’s audience with his moving and magical Sheets and he comes back with an award-winning London clown in the world premier of what is currently titled The Secret Circus Project By Kiki And Pi.

The biggest show of the weekend begins at 8pm when Todmorden Hippodrome is taken over for the Fifth Annual Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival Gala. The line-ups have been spectacular in the past and we can’t wait to see who appears this time around.



Sundays are for relaxing and roasts, right? Wrong. The Hebden Bridge Town Hall will be hosting The Burlesque Bazaar from 11am-5pm while at 2pm there will be (given the history of the festival) a very relevant round table discussion of feminism and the politics of burlesque performance called “I Am Woman – Hear Me Phwoar” (venue TBA).

The festival goes out with a blast from 8pm with The Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival International Showcase.

A limited number of weekend passes covering access to all ten events are available at £85 each (a saving of £37 based on buying individual tickets). Please note that this offer is only available to those who have purchased a Friends’ Membership; the weekend passes go on general sale from 15 December. The full line-up will be announced on 11 December and day passes and tickets to the various workshops will be on sale from 1 January 2017. More information on how to become a Friend of The Hebden Bridge Festival and these passes can be found on the official website.

Say Hello To The Hot New Acts Of La Soirée

Jarred Dewey in La Soiree. Image: Dan Govan.Read more


One of the biggest names in world cabaret strolls casually back into town next week as La Soirée opens a new season of shows in central London.

Leicester Square, an area largely known for tourists, shops that only tourists would patronise, more tourists and quick stop restaurants full of tourists, has a brand new attraction in the form of a Spiegeltent dedicated to La Soirée’s 2016/2017 London season.

The globetrotting variety show started life about a mile away from its current base. Six years ago, it set up camp on the South Bank with a cast that included Meow Meow, David O’Mer (aka Bath Boy), Ursula Martinez, the English Gents and Captain Frodo.

The latter three are all now La Soiree regulars and they’ll be joined by some less familiar faces.

Acantha Lang

The songbird from New Orleans has performed at the West End branch of The Box before but makes her La Soirée bow here this month. Her soulful voice can be heard on her LP Know Your Name; a portion of the proceeds from that album will go towards supporting The Big Issue and other members of the International Network of Street Papers. Pin back your ears and enjoy the title track.

Olivia Porter

Combining theatre and circus, Olivia Porter is a Brisbane based circus performer whose brings deadpan comedy and role playing to her unique juggling style. She has been performing internationally since 2008 and has toured widely with her own circus company 3 Is A Crowd.

Satya Bella

What goes around comes around is something every hoop artist will tell you and that particular corner of cabaret has never been more popular. Satya Bella has performed from Beirut to Perth, Dubai and Mexico. The lady may be short of height but she goes long on the spectactular if her performance here is anything to go by.

David Girard

It is not every acrobat that can say that have created their own unique apparatus. Girard may start off looking like a human hamster inside his Cirqle but watch how he uses his strength and flexibility to create something rather beautiful.

Jarred Dewey

There are many who will be looking up to Jarred Dewey in the Spiegeltent this year. The trapeze artist has thrilled audiences in both hemispheres and will be bring his high-flying act to London for the first time with La Soirée.

Jarred Dewey in La Soirée. Image: Dan Govan.
Jarred Dewey in La Soirée. Image: Dan Govan.


Daredevil Chickens

Fusing naughty slapstick and 80s pop melodrama, Marc and Svetlana are proof that what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas. Watch them here entertaining a crowd at Belfast’s Festival of Fools.

La Soirée opens this Wednesday and continues until 8 January 2017. More information can be found on the official website.

Critics’ Choice: Five Cabaret Shows You Really Should See This Week

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Remember, remember, November is always full of great cabaret. Forget those loud, empty bangs overhead: for real fireworks, check out these five shows.

TUESDAY: Meow Meow, Royal Festival Hall
The Australian siren dazzled this summer at the Brighton Fringe and in the Emma Rice-directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the RSC. This week, she is back on the South Bank in the company of piano virtuoso Thomas M Lauderdale, and trio Pink Martini and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Operatic cabaret divas are not a rarity, even in the UK, but none do it as well as Meow Meow.

1 November. Royal Festival Hall. Doors open 7:30pm. Tickets £25-45. More information

WEDNESDAY: Holly Penfield’s The Rhythm Of Life, Royal Vauxhall Tavern
Straight outta San Fran, Holly Penfield takes over the RVT for one night only as she sings a medley of her own songs interspersed with that of the iconic actress and singer Judy Garland. Penfield’s career is already five albums deep and the American songbird shows no signs of letting up on her breathtaking performances. We’ll be there as long as she promises to leave the horsewhip at home this time.

2 November. Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Doors open 8pm. Tickets £15 (reserved seating) £10 (general seating). More information

THURSDAY: Barelesque 11: Weird Science, Royal Vauxhall Tavern

A TIC favourite, Barelesque only pops up a few times a year so we recommend you grab your chance to see their shows when you can. Part kooky and kinky burlesque/variety show, part charity auction,  the show has raised thousands for the Albert Kennedy Trust making sure that homeless LGBT youth have a roof over their heads. Oh, and you get to see the awe-inspiring and award-nominated video burlesque artiste Ana Morphic and her co-founders Tallulah Van Leer and Honey Schnapps (pictured above).

3 November. Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Doors open 7pm. Tickets £10-£35. More information

FRIDAY: Jonny Woo’s Un-Royal Variety, Hackney Empire

East End drag legend Jonny Woo doesn’t do variety shows by halves. Take a look at this lot for a cast: Bourgeois & Maurice, Diane Chorley & The Buffet, Le Gateau Chocolat, Peter and Bambi Heaven, Myra Dubois and Lavinia Co-op (another drag legend in her own right).  In between acts, Woo will be presenting topical material including a 10-minute Brexit – The Musical with Richard Thomas (Jerry Springer The Opera).

4 November. Hackney Empire. Doors open 7.30pm. Tickets £10-£35. More information

FRIDAY: Peacock Butch, Resistance Gallery

Describing itself as “a new queer clubbing experience”, this collaboration between bodypainter extraordinaire Victoria Gugenheim and Lucha Britannia’s Garry Vanderhone encourages every flavour of sexuality and gender expression to come on down and flaunt their beautiful selves. There will be live performance from alt-burlesquer and make-up genius Marnie Scarlet as well as a make-up artist on hand to help put that look together.

4 November, Resistance Gallery. Doors open 9pm. £5/£3 (students/extremely fabulous creatures). More information

Image: Barelesque co-founders Ana Morphic, Tallulah Van Leer and Honey Schnapps