Many of the best artists in London cabaret and burlesque are taking turns at the busy big top by the Southbank Centre. If you’re equally busy and can’t catch them individually, or could use a sample before you choose your tickets, Saturday Night at The Spiegeltent is a great way to experience all the diversity of the Priceless London Wonderground[preview: PLW] festival in one go.
In true variety fashion, you’ll never see the same bill twice. Judging from my visit, though, the rotating line-up is reliable. First up is magnificent burlesque rabble-rouser Kitty Bang Bang (also performing at Boom Boom Club: Prospero’s Tavern), who only takes seconds to rile up a gentle crowd. Excited by her antics, the timid woman on my table becomes a wolf-whistling hound. I fall temporarily in love with Kitty, and her deeply sensual fire breathing, every time I see her.
Oozing hilariously arrogant French poise, Marcel Lucont loosens up the audience with the gentle skill of a seasoned ladies’ man. His sets are foolproof minimalist character comedy. Lucont’s power is in his silence: he only needs to shrug to make my stomach hurt from laughing. Whether snubbing British royalty or eulogising the sacred act of having sex in a public toilet, the barefoot existentialist is consistently fun.
More filth follows with musical comedy duo EastEnd Cabaret, whose riotous and rousing tunes have me reaching for another plastic cup of cider and donning my half moustache after the show. Other artists in the bill include comic Phil Nichol and hula-hoop artist Marawa the Amazing.
The only letdown is compère Andre Vincent. Playing his no-frills stand-up to a tent full of cabaret enthusiasts makes for a flat atmosphere. He does nothing to warm the audience up and demonstrates no more than a tentative knowledge of the line-up. The comedian is a tough act to follow, but for all the wrong reasons.
Late-night cabaret options are sadly in low supply in a major variety hotspot like London, which makes Saturday Night at the Spiegeltent even more special. Hosting aside, the show attracts compelling guest acts from the other Wonderground shows. For that alone, this microcosm of the festival is a sure way to end your Saturday night on a cheering note.
Saturday Night at the Spiegeltent. Hosted by Andre Vincent. Priceless London Wonderground Spiegeltent at the Southbank Centre, London SE1 8XX. 26 May, 9 and 23 June, 7 and 21 July, 11 and 25 August, 22:45. £15.50 (£14 concessions). www.pricelesslondonwonderground.co.uk