Welcome to The Grotteaux! If you’re expecting Santa and his little helpers, you’re in for a surprise. Here the vibes are more ‘heaux’ than ‘ho’ with a production that transcends the boundaries of seasonal traditions and reminds us that every day should be cause for prosecco and cheese, not just Christmas.
Presenting the show is Shotgun Carousel, a queer-led theatrical entertainment company, with The Woolwich Works proving a great venue for a cabaret. The mistress of ceremonies for the evening is the legendary burlesque performer Lilly Snatchdragon. A Jill of many trades, Lilly confidently charms the crowd with her beautiful voice and acerbic humour. The cast are a motley crew of equally talented individuals, from the live band (all performing solos) to the three captivating dancers who lit up the stage each time they grace it. The chemistry between the team is palpable, enabling what is obviously a very technical show to flow seamlessly.
A unique aspect of The Grotteaux is that different special guests feature each night. On this occasion, the audience is joined by the witty comedian John Travulva (notable for educating the audience on how babies made from human hair are created), and the coquettish MisSa, who manages to both thrill and petrify the auditorium as she swallows swords that look like they belong to feudal knights from a bygone era. And being one of only four black female sword swallowers in the world makes MisSa’s presence all the more spectacular.
Cabarets have always been rooted in the celebration of society’s ‘unconventional’; a space where those from all walks of life are invited to venture outside their comfort zone and discover something new. The Grotteaux achieves this by retaining the essence of the traditional variety shows of the 1960s, which showcased classic performers like Danny La Rue, whilst sprinkling a dose of contemporary sauciness to fit right in with a 21st-century audience.
London has shifted significantly since the days of our wonderful Danny La Rue. For many years, he had to hide his authentic self; subverting the status quo under the guise of playing a character for entertainment. Thankfully, in the UK the days of hiding your true identity for fear of being imprisoned are gone. Which leads in to why productions like this are so important today. As London’s landscape changes and migrates, such shows become more than simply a fun night out. Here in Woolwich, they draw together manifold aspects of the area; a history deeply rooted in the transatlantic slave trade; a town, once brimming with a diverse community and now facing the complicated consequences of gentrification. The Grotteaux binds together many aspects of the community, paying homage to those who paved the way to our present freedoms, whilst acknowledging there’s still more work to be done in order to make our society a more inclusive and socially responsible one.
So, grasp your favourite festive beverage and prepare for an evening of celebration. The door is always open at The Grotteaux: no matter who you are, you’re welcome.
Written and directed by: Molly Beth Morossa
Musical Direction by: Isobella Burnham
Lighting Design by: Rachel Sampley
Costume Design by: Pollyanna Elston
The Grotteaux plays at Woolwich Works until 4 june. Further information and bookings can be found here.