A girly afternoon for the Cath Kidston generation, with a sophisticated cabaret twist.
Crafternoon Cabaret Club is a beguiling new venture from Magpie Theatre Company. Combining cabaret entertainment with audience craft participation, it is held in the sunny upstairs room of The Library pub in Islington.
As might be expected, the event attracts a very girly crowd, including a hen party and a table of ladies here for a birthday treat. The few gentlemen present – fashionable metrosexuals exploring their creative side – will no doubt gain maximum points with their other halves for coming along and joining in. Yep – real men can sew.
Greeted by two charming Crafternoon hostesses in Cath Kidston-style vintage pinnies, the venue soon fills to capacity with enthusiastic crafters, seated at tables supplied with pots of buttons, scissors and ribbons. After receiving instructions from the Crafternoon hostess, the audience sets about today’s task: creating and decorating our own Peter Pan-style collars from scraps of felt, lace and sequins. (Have I mentioned it’s quite girly?)
After the audience have become deeply engrossed in their crafting, the cabaret entertainment begins with new piano/vocal duo The Throwbacks, making their debut here.
They open their set with The Lady is a Tramp; their performance to the slightly distracted audience feels like background music at first, particularly when the hen party ladies start chatting loudly. Lead singer Natalie Lipin’s bright and breezy vocals and dazzling smile, though, soon charm the room. Pianist Adam Morris provides occasional backing vocals, showing his fine voice, but it’s the occasional interaction and duetting between the two that brings this act to life. Favourites such as Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm and Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely prompt a little audience singalong.
In their second set, Lipin reveals some beautiful tones in her voice when she drops the show-style belting for the quieter and reflective passages of another Gershwin song, Someone to Watch Over Me, and in the gentle, slow jazz opening of his classic Summertime. Battling slightly to be heard over the audience chatter, the saucy comedy of the Bette Midler song Stuff Like That There is missed, with much of the text getting lost in the crowd, but The Throwbacks still receive rapturous applause.
After a little more audience crafting action, cabaret performance artiste Mary Beth Morossa, aka the “Mistress of the Macabre” takes to the stage. Resplendent in a black gothic corset dress with a Peter Pan collar and Tim Burton-esque make-up, Morossa captures the audience’s attention with a physically committed and mesmerising performance.
You could hear a pin drop (and there are pins a-plenty in here) as her sweet-voiced poetry and puppetry tale takes a dark and twisted turn. Morossa later performs pop-up cabaret on demand to individual tables, and delights the hen party ladies when she tells a particularly grisly cautionary tale about weddings, before dedicating it to the bride-to-be, all delivered with an innocent smile and the hint of a twinkle in her eye. A highly original and intriguing act, of which this short performance is, I’m sure, just the tip of the iceberg.
The verdict? An interesting and unashamedly girly afternoon; fun and innovative, with a very sophisticated selection of cabaret performances – last month, Peter Straker brought the house down – giving an added twist. Put the needle on it, grab your pinking shears and join the Crafternoon Cabaret Club.
Crafternoon Cabaret Club. Produced by A Magpie Theatre Company. The Library, Islington, London N1 1RU. Second Saturday of every month, 14:00 – 16:00. £10, craft materials provided. http://www.facebook.com/CrafternoonCabaretClub