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Menagerie, House of Kittens – Review

Pros: Exotic surroundings, well-chosen music and some truly beautiful girls.

Cons: Far too long between performances, too crowded and too many performances impossible to access.

Pros: Exotic surroundings, well-chosen music and some truly beautiful girls. Cons: Far too long between performances, too crowded and too many performances impossible to access. House of Kittens, says the press release, is "a theatre company dedicated to an exploration into the world of erotic storytelling … performed by ladies of all genders". And the start of the evening is certainly intriguing. Taking place at an East End pub that looks derelict from the outside, you're led into an exotic club decorated in high camp style, with stuffed animals galore - including a tiger leaping through the bar. Two transvestites,…

Summary

Rating

Good

An evening of supposed "erotic storytelling", Menagerie frustrates due to an overly full venue.

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House of Kittens, says the press release, is “a theatre company dedicated to an exploration into the world of erotic storytelling … performed by ladies of all genders”. And the start of the evening is certainly intriguing. Taking place at an East End pub that looks derelict from the outside, you’re led into an exotic club decorated in high camp style, with stuffed animals galore – including a tiger leaping through the bar.

Two transvestites, six foot six in their high heels, tower over you as you enter; ladies in various states of undress hover around to chat and entertain you. The first act, on the tiny stage in the main bar, features half a dozen slender girls wearing translucent body stockings that conceal nothing except modesty-saving nipple covers and G strings. Wearing identical platinum blonde wigs and with near-identical body shapes, it’s reminiscent of the old Crazy Horse days in Paris.

The audience themselves, dressed to the nines, made an exotic and entrancing backdrop, with a room at the top of the club offering free glitter makeup, feather boas and masks to complete the effect.

The evening, which ran from 8pm until 1am, promised 20 individual performances in one of the three club spaces: in addition to the main bar there was a cellar presided over by a stuffed monkey wielding a machine gun, and upstairs a large room was host to a full size polar bear.

Each performance lasted between three and four minutes, categorised by one to three blood drops on the programme – if you could read it, that was. The tiny 5pt text, in brown on a black background, was near illegible in the dim light of the club. The drops were supposed to represent the scales of naughtiness of the proceedings, although as it turned out the more drops, the higher the mock S&M content. Propriety was maintained throughout, with pasties and G strings remaining firmly in place.

With up to half an hour between the short performances, the audience was encouraged to “explore their surroundings as they move from room to room choosing the performances that most pique their curiosity and curating their own personal erotic theatrical evening”. In reality, that meant a lot of hanging about waiting for things to happen; after the opening number, the cast dispersed to their various dressing rooms, leaving the audience sipping overpriced cocktails and wondering which room to attend next.

The real problem was the lack of space and poor organisation. We tried three times to gain access to the upstairs room and on each occasion were turned away as it was full. Crammed with large armchairs and pre-booked tables, there was space for less than half the audience to enter. We witnessed several scenes of angry punters demanding access and insisting on refunds on the grounds that their tickets had been mis-sold.

Down in the cellar, the audience crowded around the stage hoping for a glimpse of the action – and once again, only those at the front could get a clear view. The glamorous contortionist may well have been splendid, but as much of her act was performed on the floor only the half dozen audience members standing at the front got to see it.

Menagerie promised much, but logistical issues meant it fell short of delivering on its promise. The scantily clad hostesses at the entrance to each venue did their best to keep up an air of mystery and intrigue, but an inability to see most of the shows left the audience angry and frustrated. This could have been a great show, with a little more organisational preparation.

Director: Sophie Cohen
Producer: House of Kittens
Booking Link: http://www.houseofkittens.co.uk
Booking Until: Menagerie is staged four times a year, with the next performance in May 2018.

About Steve Caplin

Steve Caplin
Steve is a freelance artist and writer, specialising in Photoshop, who builds unlikely furniture in his spare time. He plays the piano reasonably well, the accordion moderately and the guitar badly. Steve does, of course, love the theatre. The worst play he ever saw starred Charlton Heston and his wife, who have both always wanted to play the London stage. Neither had any experience of learning lines. This was almost as scarring an experience as seeing Ron Moody performing a musical Sherlock Holmes. Steve has no acting ambitions whatsoever.