When did you last hear of cabaret at the Royal Albert Hall? That’s exactly what The Boom Boom Club did last Saturday. Taking over the Elgar Room of the prestigious venue, the seminal revue delivered a top-of-the-range show that revamped their dark and decadent format for an audience less used to the debauches of London’s seedier vaudevillians. Burlesque was sadly off the bill, but the esteemed patronage of the august hall nevertheless got their fill of cheek from the likes of Up and Over It and Sarah-Louise Young, as well as the gravity-defying antics of Marawa the Amazing and Mat Ricardo. With a certain violaceous bovine already discernible amidst the collective’s upcoming projects, The Boom Boom Club seems truly unstoppable.


Dusty Limits and Holly Penfield bring cabaret sass back to the Savoy

Another classy joint enjoying a long-overdue taste of variety was none other than the Savoy Hotel. Under the curation of compères Holly Penfield and Dusty Limits, the debut of Savoy Cabaret brought the first vaudevillian engagement to the intimate premises of the Beaufort Bar since it last welcomed performances of the genre in the 1950s. Live music and sophisticated burlesque were the norm on Sunday, with a bill that included Hurly Burly Show alumni Polly Rae and Kitty Bang Bang, as well as ukulele songstress Tricity Vogue, letting go of her pink instrument for another of her sparse outings as the Blue Lady.

Keeping with the deflowering agenda of the weekend, touring show An Evening of Burlesque filled the Blackheath Halls with local crowds tempted by the promise of “elegant showgirls, Parisian charm and Las Vegas glamour”. In a rare London engagement, the event saw Kiki Kaboom launch an impromptu bump-and-grinding workshop onstage among well-received acrobatic turns by Kalki Hula Girl and A.J. James, with tassel-twirling duties resting on international titillators like Slinky Sparkles, Hotcake Kitty and Amber Topaz. The audience’s hesitant whoops and cheers during the show may have cast doubts on the revue’s success, but these were promptly dispelled by the crowd mobbing the performers for autographs in the hall.


Audiences will accept candy from a stranger who looks like Slinky Sparkles

Last Wednesday saw yet another first, namely ukulele comedienne Helen Arney’s Cellar Door debut. Fast-talking her way through three sets of lewd and unpredictable musical comedy, she boasted the improv skills and oddball lyrics about bizarrely ill-fated love affairs that have made her the geek queen of the British comedy circuit. Lascivious ditties like Animals and Office Party proved just the right match for the new slot in the venue’s calendar.

Titled Under the Counter, the show consists of a different act taking over the whole evening of each Wednesday at Cellar Door, under the curation of cabaret powerhouse Desmond O’Connor, who never disappoints when it comes to shameless, politically incorrect entertainment. Filling up the vacuum left by EastEnd Cabaret’s sorely missed former residency at the Door, the new series is a rare chance to see established artists from London’s variety scene strutting their stuff for more than the few minutes they get in the circuit’s mixed-bill revues. And for the lofty ticket price of zero sterling, too.


Helen Arney looks quite at ease during her first show in a gentlemen's toilet

Besides the whiff of evaporating cabaret virginity, magic was also in the air last week. You couldn’t hide from it if you wanted to, but with the riotous antics conjurers put out these days, why would you? Johnny Electrolux was in high demand with his farcical mix of magic and character comedy, performing as Spanish sleazeball Tony Garulo at Magic Night and channelling none other than Elvis Presley at The Double R Club. He may not be quite the rock and roll king with his inflatable guitars, but Electrolux makes up for it with bucketloads of charisma.

La Rêve joined in the enchantment by bringing TV sensation Barry and Stuart to the stage at Café de Paris. Though their grisly tricks with physiologically filtered cocktails and sharp wires tested the resilience of dining patrons, the stunts were successful enough to merit a return next Friday. Another popular favourite was Oliver Tabor, whose accomplished headlining number at Magic Night turned doves into music in a nimble feat of manipulation. With other humorous numbers by Dave Loosley and the hilarious Javier Jarquin the Card Ninja, the fortnightly showcase at Madame Jojo’s has quickly earned a reputation for fresh, witty trickery for discerning adult audiences.

Last, but definitely not least, it should be noted that when it comes to combining kick-ass parties, full-on fancy dress and some of the best cabaret acts in town, no-one beats White Mischief. The Jubilee-themed event at the Scala on Saturday night was packed with the usual array of unusual costumes and characters. As well as filling the stairwells, foyer and upper floors with interactive theatre, snake-ladies and steampunk bands, there was plenty of entertainment in the main room. Mat Fraser was the compere so this was never going to be a dull night but the bill had much to offer an eager crowd who saw compelling burlesque turns from Mysti Vine and Anna The Hoolagan, mystifying magic from the Mooky-like Morgan and West, fiery angle-grinding antics from Keda Breeze, the airborne dexterity of contortionist (and TIC writer) Jackie Le and and a storming session from cabaret DJs The Roustabouts.

Photos credits: Gui O’Connor, exclusively for This Is Cabaret (Holly Penfield, Helen Arney); others courtesy of the performers