LGBT crowds are seldom more vocal than in cabaret, but last week rang with even louder voices bringing gender politics to London stages.

On Wednesday, legendary performance artist Penny Arcade unleashed the newest season of Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! at the Arcola Tent. What began in New York as a work-in-progress mix of theatre, spoken word and erotic choreography has become a spiralling account of queer life in the last 40 years. Harrowingly honest and passionately tongue-in-cheek, the show features go-go dancing from an all-London cast including the Fabulous Russella, a Man to Pet and Lydia Darling, vigorously questioning attitudes of sexual intolerance not only towards gays and lesbians, but among them as well. It plays from Wednesdays to Sundays until July 22nd.


An army of London-based dancers backs performance artist Penny Arcade in Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!

Thursday marked the debut of Gender Genocide, a controversial night of performance on the more confrontational end of cabaret, at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Playwright and critic Sasha Selavie hosted the affair with ominous monologues of apocalyptic dismay. As far as debuts go, the evening was a shambles somewhere between a rehearsal and an open mic: house lights remained on throughout the event, intervals happened after the first two numbers and acts were announced while tech from the previous one was still being removed. Nevertheless, it did enjoy good turns like guitar-backed poetry and songs by Anna Chen and Charles Shaar Murray.

Except for one Punch and Judy burlesque parody by Lucy Longlegs, all routines were of the poetry or music variety. Other artists in the bill included American singer Gina Davis, The Ginger Light (a duo comprising underground poet Jeremy Reed and electronic composer Itchy Ear) and singer-models Sara Stockbridge and Anne Pigalle, an uneven line-up much lighter than the queer insurrection suggested by the title. Further dates are yet to be announced, but producer Selavie says Gender Genocide will move to Soho in September.

The Grand Finale of this year’s Drag Idol competition was held on Friday at the Two Brewers in Clapham. Hosted by the creator of the event, the fabulous Titti La Camp, the contest introduced four new faces to the scene. Judging by their stellar performances, all four are likely to be around for a long time.

Winner La Voix delighted the crowd with her impersonations of Cher, Tina Turner and Dame Shirley Bassey, while Desi diva Asifa Lahore contributed a stylish song-and-dance Bollywood number. Aussie ex-missionary Mitzi MacIntosh and Nora Bone (described by one judge as “Dawn French by way of Ginger Spice”) rounded up the evening. Judging the function were last year’s Drag Idol winner Son of a Tutu international entertainer Lola Lasagne and DJ Rupert Ellick, as well as Loose Women and former Coronation Street star Sherie Hewson.

Death Row Diva, Crimson Skye performs with no other support on stage than the severed head of his ex boyfriend

Crimson Skye in Death Row Diva: a sick, twisted and thoroughly enjoyable trip

After selling out at The Lowry in Manchester, Crimson Skye finally brought her solo show Death Row Diva to London, at Jacksons Lane Theatre. Accompanied by the severed head of ex-boyfriend Ed, the burlesque performer spins a tale of dark humour, song and audience interaction. The edgy political satire is a lesson in showmanship as the deranged diva engages the public with insightful parallels between apparently innocent practices such as Facebook stalking and the habits of an unbalanced mind. Death Row Diva is a sick, twisted and thoroughly enjoyable trip.


Photo credits: Theodoulos Polyviou (Penny Arcade), Gui O’Connor (Crimson Skye), exclusively for This Is Cabaret