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.
Award winning Lynchian dark art cabaret, The Double R Club, returned for it’s sixth annual Miss Twin Peaks contest last month, led by the “so fucking suave” host Benjamin Louche. With eight performers and a fancy dress contest, the night was never going to be short on entertainment. And what a bevy of contestants all vying to catch the eyes of four judges including Dusty Limits and Meth!
Ragina, a trained ballet dancer, performs the dance of the broken-hearted, en pointe, while slowly asphyxiating. It’s a pitch-black start to what promises to be a dark and challenging show.
Carmen Mon Oxide pulls out all the stops referencing the Lynchian world at her every turn. Her operatic rendition of Eye of the Tiger climaxes with an impressive display of titillating tassel tricks.
Rhyannon Styles mixes mime and lip syncing to a cover version of David Bowie’s Rock n Roll Suicide to great effect, turning an overcoat into a lonely fantasy.
Tom Harlow gives a haunting performance in which he embodies the essence of Marilyn Monroe. In a slow strip carried by his presence, he shines.
Vivid Angel brings the dark energy! Lucifer has fallen and this act sees a triumphant celebration of all things occult, ending in a surprise twist of lighting, which is nice as it is so unexpected.
Havana Hurricane executes a classic, pretty burlesque dance. It has a dash of melancholy to sweeten it’s slow reveal.
Sarah-Louise Young goes back to the womb to give birth to a surreal routine. Backed up by excited spermatozoa, she cavorts as an egg before unleashing her song Please Don’t Hand Me You’re Baby. A deserving second place.
Laura Moody is last but no means least. Her bizarre experimentation with vocals and cello are an animalistic experience quite nothing else on the cabaret scene. The standing ovation is appropriate and the performance sees her crowned Miss Twin Peaks.
The eventual winners were:
(drum roll, please)
Miss Ghostwood (third prize): Rhyannon Styles
Miss Sparkwood (second prize): Sarah-Louise Young
Miss Twin Peaks (first prize): Laura Moody
This year’s Miss Twin Peaks once again was a festival of the macabre, the weird and the menacing.. It was a real pleasure as a show and stands as a worthy testament to the creative juices flowing in the London cabaret scene. Till next year!
A protest was organised soon after by Spike Rhodes, producer of the celebrated drag theatre company The Drama Queens. Flying under the title of We Are The Black Cap (hashtag #WeAreTheBlackCap), it drew out over a hundred people from across the LGBT and cabaret community.
Titti La Camp wielded the microphone and held sway as a number of parties gave speeches. Jane Clendon from the Joiners Lives On campaign and Ben Walters on behalf of the RVT Future project spoke about their respective projects. Meth and Joe Parslow, co-producers of the popular Cap show The Meth Lab, were there as were a number of the Cap’s last panto crew the Familyyy Fierce including Lilly Snapdragon, Ruby Wednesday, Scarlett O’Hora and Lolo Brow. Virgin Xtravaganzah whose show was the last staged at the venue held aloft a defiant banner stating “God Bless The Black Cap”. DJ Slim Chance, dark burlesquer Mynxie Monroe and veteran drag artiste Mrs Moore were all there too.
All images: Franco Milazzo exclusively for This Is Cabaret
Starting out in Soho Square, the protesters carried a coffin and signs reading “Save Our Soho” down Greek Street to the offices of Soho Estates. Quite what role its advice played at the appeal is unknown but the closure of Madame Jojo’s has led to unprecedented bad publicity for the firm with many looking with renewed vigour into its plans for the gentrification of the Brewer Street/Walker’s Court area.
A multitude of the London cabaret scene’s most prominent figures came to pay their respects. The broad spectrum of performers defied those who label cabaret as some kind of “niche”. Burlesquers jostled with contortionists and fire breathers while musical comedy folk chatted to jugglers and drag queens. Promoters, producers and industry press were there too as were a plethora of photographers.
Superfans Simon Reeves and Bryanne McIntosh have followed the scene for decades; the latter was there at the preview openings for Madame Jojo’s and attended a dinner party held by the eponymous lady. Howard Raymond, the son of the “King Of Soho” and original Madame Jojo’s owner Paul Raymond, was there too. When his father died, he received nothing from the will – the £650m Raymond estate instead went to Howard’s nieces Fawn and India James.
Quite what this all means for Soho and the cabaret community in the long term is unknown but this much is sure: neither will ever be the same again.
Did you ever want to dally like Dali at a dinner party? For those who missed out on the infamous 1972 surrealist soirées or Lemonade and Laughing Gas’ more recent version, here is the inside view on the latter.
Last month, Lemonade and Laughing Gas held a short series of surrealist dinner parties inspired by Baroness Marie-Hélène Rothschild infamous 1972 “Diner de Têtes Surrealiste“. Those lucky enough to get an invite to the latter joined the crème de la crème of Parisian high society at her mansion to rub shoulders with Salvador Dali, Audrey Hepburn and Richard Burton and witnessed quite the spectacle.
The Baroness’ guests were asked to come in black tie & long dresses with surrealist heads. The chateau was floodlit with moving orange lights to give the impression that it was on fire. Inside, the staircase was lined by footmen dressed as cats that appeared to have fallen asleep in a variety of staged poses. Guests had to pass through a kind of labyrinth of hell, made of black ribbons to look like cobwebs. the occasional cat appeared to rescue the guests & lead them to the tapestry salon. Here they were greeted by guy with a hat to resemble a still-life on a platter and by the Baroness herself wearing the head of a giant stag weeping tears made of diamonds.
Lemonade & Laughing Gas’ modern version saw the eating part of the evening become an art installation crossed with an experimental buffet: part sit down dinner, part eating journey based on a menu imagined by Moro head chef Flo Hillier, and inspired by the 1972 menu’s oddities such as “Chevres hurlant de Tristesse” (roughly translated as “cheese of goat screaming in post-coital sadness”). Attention was also paid to the liquid refreshment with mixologist and regular collaborator Alex Orwin designing special cocktails and expertly paired drinks.
Their next events are planned for around Christmas. Check out their website for the latest details.
To celebrate the Double R Club’s fifth birthday this Thursday, co-producers Benjamin Louche and Rose Thorne have shared some of their favourite images from photo book The Black Lodge, compiled by a mysterious regular patron of the Double R, known only as Gh0stdot.
Gh0stdot’s pictures are less a mere punter’s record of the night than they are captured hallucinations, trapped fever dreams that resonate strangely with all who behold them. Copies of the book are available to purchase here.
Louche: I love this shot -maybe because it almost feels like it isn’t me. There’s something here I’m not entirely in control of, something heightened and oddly frenzied, it really captures a moment. It was taken during my second act of the night, which I almost always perform lit only by two out of synch strobe lights, and as such it’s nearly impossible to photograph successfully.
Rose: How on earth did your knee get into this shot?!
Rose: What I like about this photo is how clearly the dead prom queen is brought back to life by Blanche. The sadness of death is evident, and yet she’s still wearing the crown that got her so much superficial attention in life; there’s something deeply tragic about this. Blanche truly “gets” us, and this act, which won her a crown at the first ever Miss Twin Peaks pageant, captures it all.
Rose: This photo is a smack in the face to those that call the Lynchian aesthetic misogynistic. The ultimate bad girl, in charge and taking no shit.
Louche: Red has always been my favourite colour. Hot girl with a knife. What’s not to like?
Louche: Watching this act is like experiencing magic. It’s true theatre. What Dickie does is impossible, he makes you laugh, then he tears out your heart. This shot has caught something very vulnerable and gut-wrenching, yet simultaneously dreamlike.
Rose: This act always breaks my heart.
Louche: There’s a nightmarish coldness to this shot that really suits the character of BOB; a terrible fury trapped in a dark place and itching for escape. The frankly insane look in Pete’s eyes, highlighted with reflections of the fire he’s holding, only magnifies the whole effect.
Rose: The first time I saw this act I was truly terrified. Suddenly BOB, who’d been in my head for 20 years, was real. Terrifying.
Louche: The colouring of this shot only emphasises the unreal nature of the act, the way the light picks out Sabrina’s twisted musculature, the way the clay on her face looks like stone, or part of an ancient tree, is genuinely alarming. A beautiful monstrosity. A real standout act from the Double R’s past and this photo is a stunning record of it.
Louche: Snake doesn’t look human in this shot; or perhaps like something that has just taken human form and isn’t yet used to it. I love her right hand, in silhouette, there’s both a splayed awkwardness about it but also something graceful and choreographic.
Rose: Marnie Scarlet, what can we say? In almost all her acts there is a moment where the audience has no idea what they are looking at. I love how Gh0stdot has captured the movement of the wings while the face remains still; this mythical creature, perhaps the last of her kind, but mystery lies beneath, as it does beneath all of us…
Rose: This is one of my favourite photos of Louche, he’s reaching out of the frame to rip out your heart. I was so glad to be able to use this as one of our Wonderground posters. It screams “I am Louche and I’m coming to get you!”
Louche: Great shot. Also, the fact that the title is a lyric from Hungry Like The Wolf by Duran Duran really makes me laugh.
Rose: I also like that you can see the bandage on your hand…nobody has ever asked about that bandage…
Hands down one of the best variety nights in town, Boom & Bang Circus have been entertaining the denizens of the Hippodrome Casino for quite some time now. The show has been on the road before but their most recent event was something of a spectacular, even for them.
The Roundhouse’s Summer Sessions has seen the Camden venue host an eclectic mix of live music, comedy, dance, spoken word, live cinema and more. Last Friday, the venue was given over to Boom & Bang Circus for one of their biggest shows to date. The troupe are rarely seen outside the Hippodrome Casino’s Matcham Room so this gig was a fine opportunity for them to display just why they are one of the finest bunch of vaudevillians around.
Last month saw the launch of new night 3 Serpent Circus in Brick Lane’s Vibe Bar. This dark gem of a show is the creation of Galorious Charade, a collaboration between burlesquerAurora Galore and Roustabouts DJ Mark Charade.
The main stage saw a top drawer collection of some of the best alternative performers around including juggler Florian Brooks, sideshow artiste Lydia Darling, hula hooper Storm Hooper and avant garde fetish diva Marnie Scarlet ,all overseen by the filthier-than-thou Ophelia Bitz. Rounding out the experience, clown Dott Cotton helped out with the raffle and bearded lady Rubyyy Jones was on hand to peer into the future through her tarot cards.
For news of where the 3 Serpent Circus strikes next, watch this space.
It’s all well and good reading all those circus reviews (especially those written by people more familiar with comedy, theatre or anything apart from, you know, circus) but sometimes the only real way to explain what a show is about is through the medium of photography.
Without a doubt, the biggest circus show to hit London this summer will be Limbo. The hit headliner of the 2013 London Wonderground programme, this magnificent blend of music, illusion and eye-opening big-top action returns to the South Bank venue for another run from May to August. Limbo does not officially open until this Thursday but, before then, cast an eye over these exclusive pictures and start savouring what is to come.
These picture were taken exclusively for This Is Cabaret and remain copyright of PUMP Photography and Lisa Thomson as marked. Please do not use these pictures for commercial purposes without their permission.
Has it really been four years since the first Alternative Eurovision? On Friday, its latest outing launched this season’s London Wonderground with a mixed bag of musical shenanigans taking in comedy, burlesque, drag and some audience participation.
Taking as its inspiration the events in Copenhagen the following night, Anna Greenwood helmed a night which was a veritable kaleidoscope of outfits including pensioner Ida Barr’s hip-hop dress, Georgois Bourgeois’ Putin-inspired onesie and the burkha and military uniform displayed during Des O’Connor’s number.
This was the full line-up of Alternative Eurovision 2014:
Anna Greenwood (host)
Bourgeois and Maurice (winners)
Four Femmes on the Thames
Lili La Scala
Roulston & Young
Tempest Rose (c) Guilherme Zuhlke O’Connor
All pictures: Guilherme Zuhlke O’Connor exclusively for This Is Cabaret