Pros: It’s raucous, sexy, funny and unusually good value for money for the South Bank.
Cons: There are parts of the show that really rely on an audience reaction. If it’s a tough crowd, the show itself suffers.
Situated in the carnivalesque environment of the London Wonderground festival on the South Bank, the Black Cat Cabaret transports its audience back to the heady cabaret shows of the 1880s Parisian Montmartre quarter. Set in the Spiegeltent next to Hungerford Bridge, a wonderful circus big top, the show is a glorious mix of dazzling acrobatic skill, comedy set pieces and risqué artistry. It is a truly authentic recreation of a bygone bohemian era.
The show takes its name from Le Chat Noir, the first French cabaret show, and all aspects of the show are wonderfully Moulin Rouge. The crowds nowadays are a little more civilized and middle class, or bourgeois if we’re going to stick to this aesthetic. However, the show so effectively draws you in that it’s only the shining green of the electronic fire escape signs and the walkie talkies of the stage managers that remind you that this is not the nineteenth century.
Highlights for me were the ‘Astounding Aerialists’ Katharine and Hugo, the incredible aerial cage gymnasts who draw the biggest ‘surely not!’ coos of the night, as well as the stripping hula hoop master, Jess Love, whose routine is not only incredibly impressive but very, very funny as well. The show’s dance troupe, Cabaret Rouge, is also excellent. Their dance routines capture what for me makes this show great – traditional burlesque with a subtle contemporary twist that’s sexy as hell.
Obviously with it being cabaret some of the acts are stronger than others, or at least much more to certain tastes, but that’s the nature of the beast. I found that Vicky Butterfly’s LED wings petered into nothing and accordionist Tom Baker’s sing along act really suffered from an audience who refused to sing along. However, the whole show is kept wonderfully cohesive by the ultra camp MC Dusty Limits and his stream of innuendo, as well as fantastic costumes and a magnificent live band.
I think the performance suffered a little from a very subdued crowd, but that’s only a reflection on the quality of the experience, not the performance. At the start of the show the audience is asked (asked, not told) to put away their phones and cameras so that they can experience something ‘in real life’ for once. You wonder whether a contemporary audience struggles to engage with something where the focus is so much on the present and immediate. Then again, maybe the MC needs to work the crowd harder to warm them up.
The experience itself is wonderful. The lavishly decorated Spiegeltent on the South Bank on a beautiful summer Friday night is a magnificent affair, carefully designed and well-facilitated. The bar is open into the small hours after the show and the chairs are cleared away to create a dance floor. On top of that the staff is incredibly friendly and engage in the cabaret spirit to immerse you further. It’s not just a great show but a great night out.
Producer: The Black Cat Cabaret
Box Office: 0844 545 8282
Booking Link: https://www.londonwonderground.co.uk/
Booking Until: 26 September 2014 on selected Fridays only.