Everyone needs to start somewhere. If you’re looking to descend gently into the world of London’s cabaret supperclubs, take a wander down the backstairs of the Trangallán Tapas bar and discover the Tassel Club.
It’s not big but it is clever. The room below this discreet Stoke Newington eaterie is an intimate space which has been smartly appropriated as a cabaret hangout. What it lacks in volume, it more than makes up in atmosphere. The mood is reminiscent of the cellar in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Cask Of Amontillado: there’s a noisy, oblivious party happening up above but the real action is here down below.
As we would expect being in a tapas restaurant, the food is distinctly Mediterranean in influence from what we could see. Unlike the last time we’re here, we don’t sample the food: as far we were concerned, the cabaret is the main course. The cast tonight is small but each of the three performers is an experienced professional.
Mistress of ceremonies Amber Topaz was singing on stage at the tender age of 12 and it’s hard to believe that she has ever put her mouth to better use since. Her powerful voice belies her dimunitive stature and her skill is immediately apparent in the way she switches smoothly from conversational tones to belting out the title song to the musical Cabaret. Her husky tones on My Heart Belongs To Daddy (as made famous by Marilyn Monroe) causes more than a few gentlemen to sit to attention while Nasty Naughty Boy is a perfect cabaret number, redolent of smoky speakeasies, alluring ladies and sexual intrigue.
Amber Topaz’s contribution to the evening is valuable at both breaking the ice and opening the eyes of cabaret novices as to what is about to hit them. With the night’s proceedings divided into sections to allow for the serving and eating of the courses – if only all supperclubs were so considerate – the redheaded pocket rocket effortlessly warms up the diners after each break with her dulcet Northern tones and bold song-and-dance numbers that make fine use of the limited area. Expect a saucy twist or two when you next see her, we’ll say no more.Whenever we hear someone being introduced as “classic burlesque”, we admit to an involuntary reflex. Our right foot begins tapping out dot-dot-dot, dash-dash-dash, dot-dot-dot, “Save Our Souls, Same Old Shit on the way”. If Kitty Devine saw us doing this as she sauntered to the stage, we can only apologise: her cheesecake routines are energetic and effervescent affairs which we look forward to seeing again.
She too turns the small performance space to her advantage as she moves on and off the tiny platform at her leisure and shakes her booty inches away from open-eyed punters. It takes more than tits and glitz to make it in cabaret and these girls shouldn’t be short of work any time soon.
Unfortunately, magician Ian Marchant is more like a third wheel than the evening’s hat trick. His attempts at humour generally fall flat, a couple of tricks don’t come off at the first time of asking and, despite making more use of audience interaction than Topaz or Devine, he simply doesn’t seem to connect with the crowd as well as they do. While juggling, he points out the low ceiling; the limited headspace epitomises his limited appeal. He tries to impress by sticking spoons to his face – a kid’s trick that can be learned from YouTube in under thirty seconds – and the prelude to a tray flipping turn is stretched longer than the average reality TV show’s advert break.
All the hallmarks of a successful supperclub show are here with the chief limiting factor being the scarcity of tables and its out-of-the-way location. You’d be advised to book in advance if you want to be sure of a seat, especially once word of mouth spreads. As an introduction to the burgeoning supperclub scene, The Tassel Club at Trangallán is ideal but let’s just keep it our little secret for now, ok?
The Tassel Club. Produced by Sara Colohan. Trangallán, London, N16 9PX. 2 February, 19:30. £30 for three course menu plus show; £10 show only. www.thetasselclub.com
Photo credits: (Amber Topaz) Zoe Hunn, (Kitty Devine) Mark Barnfield.