Where else can you combine nipple tassels and real-life gorillas? Yes, Twisted Cabaret at London Zoo may be one of the only feasible, and legal, options.

This show is just one element of the London Zoo Lates, the wildly popular and adult-only Friday night events. On entering, we’re initially stunned: the standard day crowds of parents, buggies and ice lolly wielding toddlers are replaced by an energetic contingent of face painted Pimm’s drinking adults. It takes us only a moment to get into the swing of things.

Globe-trotting hula hoop artist Lisa Lottie

Globe-trotting hula hoop artist Lisa Lottie

London Zoo Lates put on the Twisted Cabaret show twice, the first time at 7pm and and then again 8.45pm. Des O’Connor, the fast-talking and charismatic compère has exceptional talent for whipping up the audience’s energy and enthusiasm. His songs, smutty and crammed with innuendo, encourage our participation; we find more alcohol helps us along with the trickier tongue twisters.

Alongside O’Connor is a bill of fearsome quality. Lisa Lottie is a multi-talented contortionist skilled at manipulating both herself and an impossibly large number of hula hoops. The guys love it; the girls are jealous. Like some kind of arcane mating ritual, Stewart Pemberton blends seriously nifty tap dancing skills with juggling to achieve a rhythmic beat. From fiery passion to just plain fiery, Preacher Muad’dib displays outstanding flame-taming skills. Also raising the temperature is Miss Rose Thorne, co-founder of the award-winning Double R Club, with her quirky elephant burlesque.

The fiery antics of Preacher Muad'dib lit up London Zoo

The fiery antics of Preacher Muad’dib lit up London Zoo

The early showing may presents some challenges: as cabaret fiends, we’re used to dark, dingy clubs, not the bright sunshine of an open sided tent. Despite his best efforts and no shortage of charisma, O’Connor struggles in the latter stages to keep the audience’s attention. Thankfully, he has an easier time of it at the second showing: a rowdier, receptive and possibly drunker audience makes for a packed out tent and a raucous atmosphere.

If animals and cabaret don’t tempt you, head over to the Silent Disco which is packed with dancers by 9pm. The lack of children makes way for some keen adults as evidenced by the lengthy queue for face painting. For the more erudite animal lovers, there are also a variety of talks throughout the evening.

The animals have bedtimes too: 9pm for those such as giraffes and gorillas, 9.30pm for the penguins and reptiles. We’d strongly advise seeing the animals early on in the evening given some of the disappointed faces of late arrivals. Although alcohol cannot be brought into the zoo, there are a number of bars and a wide range of food stands available once you get in.

Finally, remember to bring cash: life really is too short to wait in the venue’s lengthy ATM queue.

London Zoo Lates Presented by Des O’Connor. London Zoo, Regent’s Park, NW1 4RY, Fridays 18:00- 22:00 throughout June and July. London Zoo website

Photos (c) Gui O’Connor exclusively for This Is Cabaret