Immoral ditties, communist lewdness and dubious puppetry may sound like an improbable mix, but they’ve proved a formidable cocktail in the hands of EastEnd Cabaret. Check out the ten shows that defined one of the most impressive success stories in London variety as the deviant duo looks back at their trail of scandal.
|Surviving shots of EastEnd Cabaret’s first show, back when they still had some innocence left (yeah, right)|
November 9th, 2009: The George Tavern, Stepney
It was a dark, windy night in November, three years ago. Bernadette Byrne (erstwhile diva, living in a bedsit over an East London pub) decides to put on a show. Along with Bernadette’s half-moustachioed bedsit companion, Victor Victoria, an ensemble is cast: the Unfortunate Three chorus girls, cockney ghost Rosie Lee, Kangaloom the Australian spirit medium, DJ Doctor Wolfman and other bizarre characters. Rounding up the bill is Mister Little Red Book, educating the masses on the proletariat’s sexual revolution with the help of fellow communist puppets Mister Hammer and Miss Sickle. It’s a rag-tag affair, and much gin is consumed, but something special is definitely born.
March 15th, 2010: Carnivale, Brick Lane
Bernie’s ego prompts her to go solo, although Victy manages to hang on by her side. Keeping the name EastEnd Cabaret (a confusing moniker for a double act, but it stuck) they start a weekly residency at the now-defunct bar at the top of Brick Lane, with assiduous guest appearances by Mister Little Red Book. The two cabaretniks create a new show every Sunday night, premiering some of their famous cover versions (Madonna’s Like A Virgin on ukulele and musical saw) and some that never see the light of day again (Victy’s one-night-only rendition of Gangsta’s Paradise).
Some time in July, 2010: Cabaret Voltaire at Cellar Door
The site of EastEnd Cabaret’s baptism into the real London variety scene, Cellar Door offers the duo a spiritual home (complete with free gin), monthly and then fortnightly, for 18 months. Honing their repertoire of lascivious material, they meet many strange and wonderful patrons of this basement lair, including a space rocket and warship insurance salesman who wants to fly Bernie and Victy to Bermuda for his birthday party.
December 27th-30th, 2010: The Attic, Oubliette Arthouse
EastEnd Cabaret creates and curates The Attic, a pop-up cabaret bar in a Soho squat. The four-night stand is a collaboration with the Oubliette Arthouse, a collective occupying an abandoned building on Shaftesbury Avenue. Starring Kiki Kaboom, Marcel Lucont, Dusty Limits and other London household names, the illegal enterprise packs to the brim every night with revellers letting loose on wine and cigarette smoke.
July 17th, 2011: Cabaret Tent at Latitude Festival
Bernadette expects happy festivalgoers, sunshine and cider for EastEnd Cabaret’s first festival appearance. She is not prepared for the miles of mud, navigating portaloos in a jumpsuit or for the earwig infestation in the performers’ campsite. Victy plies Bernie with gin and gourmet falafel until she forgets where she is. Mister Little Red Book enjoys increased popularity after releasing an instructional online video about the Kremlin-approved sexual position known as the Trotsky Tickle.
August 2nd, 2011: Laughing Horse Free Festival at the Counting House, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
The double act debuts at the world’s largest performing arts festival with The Revolution Will Be Sexual. The show sees the birth of the Half-Moustache Army – Bernie and Victy roam the Royal Mile, liberally handing out half-moustaches on sticks. It pays off: by the end of the month, people cue around the block to see the free show, and they often fit almost 200 people into a room that should have held 120.
November 16th, 2011: Arcola Tent, Dalston
Shortly after their successful Edinburgh debut, a two-week run of Revolution follows at the newly launched Arcola Theatre extension in Hackney. Bernie and Victy set up camp in a tent-within-a-tent and send out daily audio postcards into the blogosphere, warding off the cold with a well-stocked gin bar and lots of homemade bunting.
February 16th, 2012: Adelaide Fringe Festival
EastEnd Cabaret peddles its musical filth Down Under, bringing the revolution to popular entertainment precinct The Garden of Unearthly Delights. Attracting sell-out crowds in the baking summer sun, Bernie and Victy are thrilled to be special guests at infamous variety spectacular La Soirée. On the very same day, the duo wins the Adelaide Fringe Best Cabaret Award, beating La Soirée to the punch.
Two months after the Australian tour, Bernie accuses Mister Little Red Book of attracting too much attention. Amidst heated debate and threats, the communist puppets and the lewd troubadours part ways, ending two years of dogged fight against the threat of capitalist diseases.
August 2nd, 2012: Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh Fringe
Notoriously Kinky, their second Edinburgh outing, joins an astonishing line-up of alternative comedy and cabaret at the atmospheric (and slightly damp) Underbelly Cowgate. EastEnd Cabaret’s notoriety spreads, garnering sell-out shows, the front cover of The Scotsman, a TO&ST Award nomination and thousands of converts to the Half-Moustache Army.
December 6th, 2012: The George Tavern, Stepney
After three years, the deviant diva and her hermaphroditical accomplice choose the place where it all began to thank everyone who helped them in their rise through the cabaret ranks. Plans for the knees-up include hits and lost b-sides, in what may well be the most salacious third birthday in history.
Want to celebrate EastEnd Cabaret’s three-year spree of indecency? Check out the event’s Facebook page, where you can nominate your favourite songs from their repertoire and buy tickets in advance.