Life is a Cabaret at the third annual London Cabaret Awards – particularly when you don’t need three buses to get home.
The London cabaret scene heaved a collective sigh of relief after the bell rang on Tuesday and Bob and Boris went back to their respective corners to discuss the tube strikers’ demands, allowing the third annual London Cabaret Awards to continue unabated at Stockwell’s LOST Theatre. This last-minute reprieve made for a raucous night where what producer Paul L Martin jokingly referred to as the “champagne” flowed, the sequins shone like constellations and no-one had to trek back from SW8 in those heels.
Our hostess for the evening was unsinkable ship and queen of the withering put down, Myra DuBois who channelled the spirit of Margaret Thatcher in a gravity-defying wig that redefined the term “important hair”. Expertly holding proceedings together with customary bile and several cans of Elnett, Myra proved yet again she’s cabaret’s finest and most irreverent compere, with nothing escaping her lacerating tongue, not even awards producer Paul L Martin’s self-promoting pop up banners.
The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, the venue for last year’s event, was a snug fit for its audience and this year Paul L Martin has found a better alternative that meant everyone got a clear view of the stage. There was a strong line-up of presenters including Barb Jungr and Marisa Carnesky who pointed out how little has changed over the past twenty years, with cabaret performers still not receiving the luxuries of water and toilet rolls in many venues.
Some of the award recipients were uncharacteristically coy when accepting their gongs and a number of them were sadly absent, prompting an audience heckle of “is everyone in Australia?” Eloquent speech of the night however went to mentor and teacher Jo King who won for Unsung Hero and spoke of her thirty-five years in burlesque. Her mantra of “giving permission for people to give themselves permission” struck a chord with many in the audience whose careers she’s championed and cheer led.
Other worthy winners included The Boy With Tape On His Face for Best Speciality Act, Lady Rizo for Best Vocal Act and the wonderful Tina T’Urner Tea Lady who claimed her prize for Best Newcomer minus her tabard and teapot. The Outstanding Achievement Award went to the Gay Bingo mavericks whose antics have morphed from a small backstreet party in Brixton to an international hit.
The standard of entertainment was high again this year, as DreamBears opened the show with a vigorous work-out to Lady Marmalade that set the room rocking. Variety performer Tom Balmont squeezed his double-jointed body through a tennis racquet for our viewing pleasure and The Original Street Girls grimaced their way through another brilliant routine, filling the auditorium with the smell of a Chicken Cottage take out.
The second half saw talented singer songwriter Tamar Broadbent leading the room in a sing-a-long about a boy called Patrick who could have been any one of our futile teenage crushes. Broadbent is what you get when you cross Victoria Wood with musical theatre graduate. She’s a wry, observational comedienne with a voice you’d hear in the West End and a talent for sending up her drama school background.
Never one to be outdone, Myra Dubois took her Margaret Thatcher persona even further with a Rex Harrison-style rendition of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina performed in a blue sequinned suit and pussy bow. After a brief dance around the iconic handbag, she changed into a gold lamé number that was reminiscent of a Quality Street Toffee Penny, claiming dressing as a Tory brought her out in hives. Any excuse for a costume change.
The most enthusiastic cheer of the night went to writer and cabaret champion Ben Walters whose much missed Time Out contribution has left a hole in the cabaret press. Hats off to Paul L Martin for organising this Awards ceremony again this year and giving recognition to hard-working performers who are often expressing themselves for love rather than money.
The London Cabaret Awards 2014. LOST Theatre, 208 Wandsworth Rd, London SW8 2JU www.londoncabaretawards.co.uk
Image: PUMP Photography