Editorial

For Those Experiencing Not So Happy Holidays…

“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 jo@samaritans.org, 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


Fings From The Fringe

Well, who doesn’t love an alliterative title? And titles, when it comes to Edinburgh Fringe, can make or break you. Likewise your publicity image. Does it draw people in? What kind of people? And does it accurately represent what you do? Some of the biggest disappointments aren’t because a show is bad, but because it’s not what it promised.

The favourite title I’ve spotted so far this year is the risqué punning of ‘Fingering A Minor On The Piano’, from Adam Kay. That said, I wasn’t completely sure whether this was simply for shock value, or indicated a cleverer show. Until I saw Kay in his other Fringe offering, ‘The Remains of Tom Lehrer’The classic geeky wit and wordplay of Lehrer’s comic songs are equally matched by Kay’s own lyrical contributions and droopy-browed delivery.

Musical numbers are interspersed with biographical detail from Lehrer’s life and a few choice props are flung about. Like the stuffed pigeon sitting sedately atop the glossy black piano, Kay barely moves from his stool; he has no need because it’s the material – including previously unreleased compositions – that’s the star of this show, within Kay’s expertly constructed frame and presentation. The timbre of Kay’s voice may be a little thin when not ripping into the gleeful madness of growls and squeaks that compliments the smooth sociopathic straightness of his speaking voice so well but, when the verbal material is as rich this, that is a negligible note. He teases us with more variations of ‘The Elements’ than I knew existed, and favourites like ‘The Masochism Tango’ are given a 21st Century twist, proving Kay’s own skills as much as his muse’s.

I’m sold on ‘Fingering A Minor’. The best advert for a show is a taste of what that show experience will be like. And the currency of Word-Of-Mouth is, perhaps, worth more at Edinburgh Fringe than anywhere else.

This is one of the themes that arises in the first of Ben Walters‘ Cabaret Chinwag events, now a firm favourite in my Fringe fixtures. Each week he hosts a free (yes, FREE) panel show discussion with some of the most interesting performers from the Ed Fringe cabaret circuit. It’s a brilliant place to familiarise yourself with who’s doing what, and what shows are hot. And it’s been sponsored by Pickering’s Gin, so yes, there are freebies.

IMG_0107Today, guests are Lili La Scala, George and Liv of Bourgeois & Maurice, and Lisa and Kim from the Australian sensation Hot Brown Honey that’s hitting the UK for the first time under the production umbrella of Briefs, while presenting something wholly original. As well as info about their shows and careers, the guests are all prompted to give a little lo-fi taste of their work. ‘If You Don’t Know What To Do With Your Life‘, from Bourgeois & Maurice’s first album becomes a poetry duet; Kim (a.k.a. Busty Beats) from the Hot Brown Honey team raps us their welcome to the hive; Lili La Scala melts the stresses of the Fringe away with her exquisite voice, singing unaccompanied the traditional Scottish ‘Mingulay Boat Song from her show Siren.

There’s mingling time afterwards, to sample more of the Pickering’s Gin offerings if you so desire. Another thread of the panel chat today though, is the function and dangers of alcohol as a prominent presence in the cabaret culture. Sober thoughts on a valuable resource. Just careful not to overdo it, for everyone’s sake.

Fingering A Minor on the Piano. By Adam Kay. Pleasance Courtyard, 60 Pleasance, EH8 9TJ. Until 29 August, 18:40 https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/adam-kay-fingering-a-minor-on-the-piano

The Remains Of Tom Lehrer. By Adam Kay. Gilded Balloon Teviot, Teviot Row House, EH8 9AJ. Until 29 August, 15:45 https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/remains-of-tom-lehrer-performed-by-adam-kay

Cabaret Chinwag. Presented by Ben Walters. Fringe Central, Infirmary Street, EH1 1LZ. 11, 18, 24 August, 14:30 https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/cabaret-chinwag

Another F*cking Variety Show. Presented by Lili La Scala. Pleasance Dome, Potterow, EH8 9AL. Until 28 August, 23:00 https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/lili-la-scala-another-f-cking-variety-show

How to Save the World Without Really Trying. By Bourgeois & Maurice. Underbelly, 66 Cowgate, EH1 1JX. Until 28 August, 21:25 https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/bourgeois-maurice-how-to-save-the-world-without-really-trying

Hot Brown Honey. Presented by Briefs Factory. Assembly Roxy, 2 Roxburgh Place, EH8 9SU. Until 28 August, 20:20 https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/hot-brown-honey

Cirque Tsuica and the Art of The Brass Band

We all know London is great for bringing in big performance names and hiding out in tiny corners, but it can be easy to forget that some of the most exciting work is the stuff that tours the regions. Just like Tour de France, Cirque Tsuica begin their UK visit in Yorkshire this weekend, and the closest that their latest series of shows come to the capital is a one night stand in Luton on March 10th.

But if you can track the French circus down on their journey (which also takes in Oxford, Derby, Poole, Sutton, Warwick and Newbury), Opus 7 promises something rarely seen on British stages. As well as being acrobats, the artists are also skilled musicians, and brass instruments feature heavily in the show, injecting the traditional circus energy and playful spirit into a contemporary style performance.

What’s more, the visiting troupe will also be joined by local brass bands, who have been preparing since before Christmas with Cirque Tsuica’s musical director, Camille Secheppet, in workshop rehearsals. Each town will add distinct local flavour to the show, incorporating their own influences within Tsiuca’s own compositions of Balkan brass and American jazz. It’s a sad fact that the British brass band tradition is on the wane, as two of the towns were unable to find any local participants to get involved. This seems like a great way to reinvigorate a fading culture and bring it up to date.

Cirque Tsuica hail from the Cheptel Aleȉkoum collective in the remote French village of St-Agil. Most of the collective met as students at the French national circus school CNAC, and now live, train and work together in a community of around 20 – when they’re not touring the world of course! From one farmhouse with a circus tent out back, the collective have become a real fixture of village life, as now a fifth of the 250 inhabitants have a circus connection.

They’ve been brought to England by the Circus Evolution project, which is an Arts Council-funded initiative managed by Crying Out Loud. Working with nine different venues, the three-year project is dedicated to sharing quality contemporary circus with new audiences across the country.

Community has always been a strong part of circus life, so combining local communities of British towns with members of the Cheptel Aleȉkoum collective is a great way to open up that spirit further. And if you thought acrobatics were impressive on their own, try watching artists flip, dance and tumble whilst playing their musical instruments at the same time!

Opus 7, by Cirque Tsuica. National tour. 26th Feb-15th March. http://cryingoutloud.org/projects/circa-tsuica-opus-7-touring-2016/

Why Madame Jojo’s Is Not Coming Back (And Neither Is The Black Cap)

Back in 2014, Soho Estates, owners of the block containing Madame Jojo’s, promised that the iconic burlesque joint would return in “a couple of years” following its premature closure; the place was shuttered after its licence was revoked due to a violent fracas but Jojo’s was scheduled to be closed in summer 2015 regardless. The keen mathematicians among you will therefore be expecting to see at least some sign of progress more impressive than a large poster now that the big hand on the clock reads “2016”.

And progress there is, of a sort. John James, the biggest cheese at Soho Estates, spoke to London Live last week and this is what he had to say.

Here’s what he said:

“We are going to rebuild the site in which there is already The Box…We are going to reconfigure the area in which Jojo’s used to operate because it’s had its shelf life. It wouldn’t pass muster in a modern building concept so we’re going to build a bigger and better basement club which is going to re-appear as Madame Jojo’s.

“But it won’t be the sad Madame Jojo’s, nostalgically romantic Madame Jojo’s, a success of several years ago…it will be a new thing. What Soho is brilliant at is re-inventing itself and it constantly does and its re-invented by young enterprising people with ideas and creativity and they bring this to Soho. All we do is say is ‘there is a new venue, there’s Madame Jojo’s.’

“Someone will run Madame Jojo’s and I’m confident it might be us – I don’t think it’ll be me, by the way – it might be us but we will look for someone to recreate Madame Jojo’s. You’ve got to respect the fifty years Paul Raymond did to get us where we are today but my job is to look to the next fifty years, if not a hundred years. I’m confident that the Madame Jojo’s site will be a centre of entertainment, of live music and live acts.”

(bold emphasis our own)

If the message from Soho Estates (“reconfigure…re-appear…new…recreate…”) isn’t clear enough, here is their mission statement:

“The management team understands the ‘village’ in which we operate and reacts accordingly. We understand the requirements of our tenants and have helped in times of recession to maintain their cash flow and keep the small businesses of Soho thriving, whilst also helping some businesses to grow into major concerns.”

(bold emphasis our own)

Reading between the lines, it is very clear that what we knew as “sad Madame Jojo’s” is gone, deader than disco and is decidedly not coming back. In its place will be “a new thing”, “a centre of entertainment”. Quite what this new vaguely-defined “centre” will look like, what kind of acts it will host and when it will open is unknown. Although we suspect the marketing for the venue will mention its venerable history, not once does John James during his interview mention the kind of shows or audiences that put this corner of Brewer Street on the map.

In theory, James’ mention of “live acts” could mean a return to the drag, burlesque and variety shows of old but, given his company’s focus on “cash flow” and going by what else is happening around Soho, we have our doubts.

Down by Leicester Square, the Hippodrome Casino’s Matcham Room was rebranded a little while back as “Hippodrome Live”. In its former guise, it hosted Boom & Bang Circus featuring Jonny Woo as host and Kitty Bang Bang as a performer and co-producer as well as regular midweek doses of Polly Rae’s Soho Burlesque Club, drag variety from Velma Celli and a diverse range of international songbook artistes from Christina Bianco to Alexander Armstrong. Nowadays, the latest line-up is dominated by stand-up acts, tribute acts, tribute bands and actual bands you had entirely forgotten about.

Down the road, the Crazy Coqs will be relaunched this September as “Live At Zedel” with the United Agents talent agency taking over the programming. Last week, they said:

“Our aim is to make (Live At Zedel) more a part of Soho – to increase the late-night entertainment, to increase what happens there in lunchtime and the afternoons, and to reach out to a younger audience in general. If art forms like cabaret and jazz are going to move forward they need to attract a younger audience. That is what we do here at United and that is what we have in mind for the venue.”

Unlike Soho Estates, United Agents have at least mentioned the kind of art forms they hope to have more of at the new Live At Zedel: theatre, comedy and literary events. If none of that looks to you like the Crazy Coqs’ current fare, you would be right. Whether the new look joint will have space for the controversial annual London Festival of Cabaret and stars like Barb JungrJim CarusoBryan BattChristine BovillLiliane MontevecchiMiss Hope SpringsEve Ferret and Anne Reid is unknown.

Meanwhile, over in Camden, the Black Cap’s latest lessees Ruth & Robinson are doing anything but mentioning the L-word. Rather than play up the live entertainment angle, they’re all about creating “a unique, distinctive and vibrant drinking establishment which is welcoming to the whole community” unlike every other new London pub. The current plan for the historic LGBTQ boozer will see bar areas on the ground and first floors, with function rooms on the second floor.

Let’s be clear about something: neither Madame Jojo’s nor the Black Cap died a natural death. They were hosting shows in rude health right up until the day they were abruptly shuttered, shows that have gone on to flourish elsewhere around London. Whether going under the guise of gentrification or, as James prefers to call it, dynamic change, it’s hard to escape the suspicion that they were killed in cold blood by corporate greed.

Both venues will be doubtless back at some point, possibly this year. There may be a similar façade and a similar postcode but that will be about the only connection with their past selves. The qualities that made these two iconic venues milestones in cabaret and LGBTQ history are highly unlikely to return for the foreseeable and what these re-animated venues will actually look like and who they will be aimed at is anyone’s guess.

If cabaret is pushed out of Soho and Camden, it will arguably be more of a loss to those areas than the cabaret scene as a whole. There are new joints popping up all over London and a never-ending stream of great new shows – here a House of Q, there a Gin House Burlesque – it seems that these days it matters less where you stand and more what you stand for.

Image: Ben Walters as featured in his “Inside the squatted Black Cap”

Circus Treats: What’s On in February

Turn your back for a second and suddenly there’s circus everywhere. This month sees the first of the tenting companies taking to the fields and towns of the UK, in addition to the ever growing number of theatrical circus shows popping up around the place.

Moscow State Circus lead the charge, opening on 1st, followed by Planet Circus, Gandey’s Thrill Circus and Circus Funtasia on the 12th, Paulos Circus on 13th, Big Kid Circus on 15th, and Circus Zyair on 16th. And that’s just the beginning…

Theatres up and down the country will be visited by circus shows that range in content from traditional thrill acts to contemporary dance infusions, via children’s theatrical spectacle and French brass band joy. Cirque Berserk, the former, is presented by Zippos Circus for the second year running; Joli Vyann‘s new show Imbalance explores digital interactions through acrobatics; Lost in Translation‘s madcap, banana-loving The Hogwallops, produced by Jackson’s Lane, is still on the go; Cirque Tsuica are in the UK for the first time, with the energetic musicality of Opus 7.

Circus Of Horrors are midway through their Shocking All Over The World 21st anniversary tour, and Ockham’s Razor are set to take latest ensemble show Tipping Point out to those who didn’t catch the premiere at London International Mime Festival last month.

The Mime Festival still has a couple of circus tricks up its sleeve before it closes, with French Cie Yoann Bourgeois bringing their suspended, shifting stage to the Barbican with He Who Falls, and Swedish troupe Svalbard presenting the surreal All Genius All Genius at Jackson’s Lane, both from 3-6th.

Jackson’s Lane have a really exciting circus programme this season that, this month, includes the Hangwire showcase of new work on 13th, and two new pieces sprung from the Resolutions residency with The Place. AlulaCyr are three women and three cyr wheels, exploring pack mentality in Hyena (16th), and Le Lien ne Fait pas le Fagot is acrobatic duo Nikki and JD examining what it’s like to consistantly be cast as lovers when in reality JD is in a gay relationship, and Nikki is a 30-something woman searching for Mr Right on Tinder (18th).

In case you’d forgotten that February hides the dreaded Valentine’s Day deep in its midst, don’t worry, Jackson’s Lane also have a circus solution for that, admittedly a little belatedly, with associate artists Silver Lining serving up a Late Valentine circus cabaret on 27th. If you want something closer to the big day itself, try Invisible Circus‘ Valentine Weekender Kabaret Klub in Bristol (12-14th), or Mary Bijou Cabaret and Social Club‘s Bad Romance Social in Cardiff (13th). Then again, you could go for something completely different, and book onto one of CircusMASH special couple’s workshops to try some circus out for yourselves (14th).

Speaking of something different, Wales Millennium Centre has a new production of Shakespeare’s Henry VI that runs from 1-20th and features an all female cast with aerial acrobatics performed in the venue’s roof void.

There’s still more though folks! February half-term is when the annual Showzam festival takes place in Blackpool, where a range of circus, cabaret and street performers from the UK and Europe will be performing from 13-20th.

Finally, one last mention for those of you in London: Paper Doll Militia are performing LoopsEnd as part of VAULT festival, billed as ‘the love child of Tim Burton and Trent Reznor’, and directed by the brilliant Al Seed, from 24-28th.

p.s. Almost forgot to mention Cirque du Soleil! Still in state at Royal Albert Hall with Amaluna till 6th March.

Yo, Kanye, We’re Really Happy For You, But This Is How You Do A Bowie Tribute

It hasn’t taken long since David Bowie’s death for a fellow musician to try on the Starman’s boots for size. According to the Daily Star, Kanye West is apparently planning an album of of straight cover versions of some of Bowie’s hits as well as original songs featuring samples of the British star’s music.

In response, someone has set up a petition to stop West’s project while the Guardian have claimed that, when it comes to paying tribute to Bowie’s five decades of hits, there is “no-one more fitting” than the US rapper. At least pretend to look surprised.

Our opinion? The Thin White Duke championed music and musicians from all strata of society, all races and right across the gender and sexuality spectrum. Let the children of Bowie’s revolution pay tribute in any way they wish. And that’s all the children – not just those with access to million-dollar studios and the ears of media execs. The world can honestly get by without another auto-tuned album of chart-friendly melodies and saccharine sentiments, so the challenge to all the wannabe tributes is to create something with feeling. Something with real fire in its belly. Something like this.
 



(Ruby Wednesday recorded at the Bloc Bar’s David Bowie tribute night on 17 January.)

Bonus video: See Ruby Wednesday take on David Bowie’s Five Years at Virgin Xtravaganzah’s Gods And Monsters night.

Image: BreatheHeavy

Circus Treats: What’s On in January

The new year’s here (in case you missed that) and, with it, a raft of circus embedded within the London International Mime Festival programme. First up (11-23rd) is the latest show from British pioneers Ockham’s RazorTipping Point, features several performers, an intimate ring, and a rather large pole. No, it’s not that sort of show. (Honestly, can’t take this lot anywhere. Ed).  

Belgian exports come in the form of BabaFish, who showcase the UK premiere of Expiry Date amid a set full of oddball mechanical contraptions (19-23rd), and Alexander Vantournhout and Bauke Lievens‘ minimal self-portrait ANECKXANDER (22-24th).

Dark Circusby Stereoptik, is something a little different – a magical conjuring of a big top universe from visual artists and live electro musicians (26-30th).

Prolific Aussie company Circa present their latest acrobatic spectacle The Return from 27-31st, and the festival continues into the first week of February with further circussy delight. If alternative clowning is your thing, there’s a whole lot of that in the programme as well, including the fabulous Al Seed’s award winning Oog (15-17th).

The other big London news is the annual Cirque Du Soleil residency at the Royal Albert Hall. This year’s show is one of CDS’s newest creations, Amalunaa tribute to the amazing power of women, hitting Britain for the first time on the 16th. It runs through till March, but the particular way CDS price their tickets mean that the prices are likely to hike the longer you leave it.

There are still a few days left to catch the big Christmas shows from Blackpool Tower (until 17th) and Great Yarmouth Hippodrome (until 10th), and theatres around the country will be experiencing visits from touring shows.

Circus of Horrors are midway through their 21st anniversary ‘Shocking All Over The World’ tour of CarnEvil, Cirque Berserk! are launching out of their Winter Wonderland season in Hyde Park into a national tour, and a return of Cirque De Glace sees theatres around the country transformed into ice rinks for Evolution, which promises to be a cross between figure skating and a Cirque Du Soleil style fantasy.

Shows aside, this month also hosts the annual Circus Reunion in Nottingham from 29-30th, and an open roundtable Circus Development Forum at the National Centre.

Believe it or not, next month the tenting season starts again for some of the country’s touring troupes. Until then, take it easy (and, as ever, let us know any events we missed in the comments!).

Circus Reunion 2016

Between the end of the Christmas season and the start of summer, the annual Circus Reunion is a chance for showmen and women to gather under one permanent roof and catch up on the year’s events. We spoke to Frazer Watson, organiser of this year’s bash, to find out more. The conclusion? An event not to be missed!

From 29-30th January, anyone who’s ever been involved in the circus world is invited to the rather lovely Village Hotel for the yearly gathering of circus minded folk. Amongst other activities this year, there are plans for a pyjama party on the Friday evening, and a rather more glam James Bond theme for the Saturday, giving guests a chance to bring out the bling and celebrate in style.

‘Circus Reunions have been taking place for many years’, Frazer explains. ‘They used to be fancy black tie events and balls, attended by celebrities. Times have changed a bit, but we have entertainment, dinner, dancing, and familiar faces.’

This is Frazer’s second year organising the event. He ran away to the circus as a youngster and then, with his newly developed juggling skills, ran away from the circus again, to the life of a year-round holiday camp entertainer. Yet circus has always been a home to him, and he’s maintained close ties ever since, running the box-office for the relaunch of Billy Smart’s Circus with his wife Sharon, travelling to visit friends and family in shows, and taking on the role of Secretary to the ACP (Association of Circus Proprietors).

reunion deskI asked what he enjoyed best about the reunions, and for Frazer, the biggest kick comes from seeing the newer and older generations bonding together and sharing stories and experiences. ‘A lot of circus performers now aren’t from the same traditional background,’ he reminds us. ‘They come up from youth circuses or from other forms of entertainment. It’s good to see the interactions. Circus is changing, but it’s important that the past isn’t just swept under the carpet.’

Among those attending this year will be a contingent from Newcastle based Circus Central, who are beginning work on a heritage project to trace circus activity during World War 1, following on from the success of their previous excavation of circus history in the North East. Other stalls will no doubt include sponsors Terry Bunton Fine Arts (trapeze artist turned circus painter!), and Circus Stardust entertainment agency.

With a nod and a wink, we’re also expecting Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee, and a very special chap called Neil Baldwin, who was the subject of BAFTA-winning BBC drama Marvellous. Which is exactly what I’ll be watching this evening.

Tickets are available via the Facebook group for either the Friday, Saturday, or full weekend, and a special hotel discount is available for those who wish to book an overnight stay and boogey into the wee hours. It’ll be my first time, so I look forward to seeing some of you at the end of the month!

Circus Reunion 2016. Village Hotel, Nottingham, NG9 6DL. 29-30th Jan. £40 Fri/£50 Sat/£75 Wkend/£20 Child https://www.facebook.com/groups/1427146457525574/?fref=ts

 

For Those Experiencing Not So Happy Holidays…

“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 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. The cabaret community feels this as keenly as any which is why we are ecstatic about the upcoming Le Chien Noir fundraiser show organised by Cabaret Roulette producer Vivacity Bliss. Taking place on 21 January 2016, it will be raising money for Rethink Mental Illness.

This Christmas and New Year’s Eve, whether you’re in company or not, don’t feel that you’re alone in feeling alone. 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.

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 08457-90-90-90. You can also just send them an email, and be as anonymous as you need to be. Mail jo@samaritans.org, and someone will reply. Even if it’s just to say hello.

The London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard 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.

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, this is for those of you with friends or family who you feel may need support or advice. The Samaritans have some wonderful guidance that is worth checking out about what to do if you’re worried about someone.

The editors and contributors at This Is Cabaret wish everyone a happy 2016.

Circus Treats: What’s On in December

My Christmas season begins tonight with the Mary Bijou Cabaret and Social Club‘s Christmas Bauble in Cardiff, but wherever you are this December, there are plenty of circus sparkles to put you in the festive spirit.

The Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is still going strong until 3rd of January with Zippo’s Circus presenting The Perfect Gift by day, and Cirque Berserk’s Adrenaline by nightLa Soirée is once again tempting Londoners into the Southbank Spiegeltent until 17th Jan and the Southbank Centre is also hosting the perennial favourite, Slava’s Snowshow (16th-3rd Jan). Victoria Park also has its own Winterville Spiegeltent, featuring Cirque Du Cabaret.

Some folks like to claim that Christmas is for the children and, for very little ones, the Roundhouse see the return of the charming Peut-être Theatre with this year’s offering of The Little Bird Who Stayed for Winter (19th-4th Jan). For the bigger party people, the Bloomsbury Big Top’s Cirque Shanghai festive frolics may be more in order, including a 3-course meal, bar, and that all important entertainment.

Manchester also seems to have a great line in circus parties this season, with Cirque Lumiere’s Christmas Party World at Manchester Central, and the Urban Circus Christmas Party in Victoria Warehouse. The Trafford Centre’s Winter Wonderland, open from 12th-3rd Jan, also includes a Christmas Circus amid the fairground rides and festive stalls.

The annual Christmas Spectacular and Water Show at Great Yarmouth Hippodrome plays from 12th to 10th January, and the Blackpool Tower present a circus pantomime with Pinocchio until 17th January.

Other cities’ winter offerings include the Aussie awesomeness of Circa’s mesmerising Beyond in EdinburghThe Great Canadian Circus in BirminghamCircus Geeks Do Christmas in Bristoland the globetrotting Pirates of the Carabina in Brighton with their hit show Flown.

For fans who like to get a bit deeper into the circus world, Welsh super-circus company NoFit State are launching their Archive exhibition on 12th, which will run at their Four Elms site in Cardiff until 23rd, in celebration of their 30th year. The exhibition also features a weekend of performances and installations with Journeys on 12-13th.

Back in London, Jackson’s Lane are hosting a free exhibition of photographer Ben Hopper’s work with Transfigurationwhich runs until 31st December, exploring the spirit of contemporary circus performers and dancers. Horacio Alcala’s beautiful documentary film Grazing The Sky also launches, with a screening at Curzon Cinema Mayfair on 9th followed by a post-show Q&A with the director and featured cyr wheel artist Jo Moss.

Could Santa have stuffed our sack any fuller? If you find anything else we’ve missed, do drop it into the comments below! Hohoho, and a Merry Christmas to all! See you on the other side…