A night out at a naughty cabaret show in London’s Soho? What’s not to love?
It is perhaps serendipity that what was once the Raymond Revuebar is now the setting for Bernie Dieter’s Club Kabarett. Back in the 1970s, Raymond’s club hailed itself as ‘The World Centre of Erotic Entertainment.’ And several decades on, Club Kabarett may just be the sexiest show in London town right now.
Even the brand spanking newly refurbed bar/club – all polished concrete, smooth surfaces, glass walkways and flashing scarlet neon – is pretty darned seductive. But then production company ‘Underbelly’ – they of the big purple elephant fame – always go that extra mile, as anyone who’s seen their award-winning shows at the Edinburgh Fringe or on London’s Southbank will attest. The company has taken over the former Revuebar, sprinkled stardust over it, and renamed it Underbelly Boulevard.
It’s a rainy autumnal night when we pitch up at the UB in Walker’s Court, Soho. After a glass of bubbles, our sense of excitement is also fizzing as we queue up to get into the theatre proper. There’s already an element of wondering just what will await us on the other side.
Rows of seats circling a small, round stage, that’s what, with a punky three-piece band playing at the rear of the venue. And also a balcony offering a great view of the stage. The balcony is where we are seated. It’s a plus for two reasons. A) The view of the stage is excellent. And B) there’s no chance of being selected as an audience participant. While I enjoy a bit of AP, I don’t if I’m one of the chosen few.
I’m also loving the low lighting, bathing the mini-arena in reds and blues and purples. It feels intimate and, yes, sexy. Especially as ‘down below’, girls in PVC and lads in Lycra strut up and down like a kind of slightly kinked warm-up for the first appearance of MC Miss Dieter herself.
Bernie Dieter’s Club Kabarett is the very first show to take to the stage at Underbelly Boulevard. Born in the former east Germany, Dieter has been described as ‘the first lady of Weimar punk cabaret’ and is a cross between Lady Gaga, Marlene Dietrich and Frank-N-Furter from The Rocky Horror Show in sequins. Let’s just say she’s sure as hell no shy, retiring type.
Bedecked in tassels, feathers, a Westwood-style kilt, ripped fishnets and sparkly stilettos, she struts onto the stage like she owns the place. Which she kind of does for the next few months. She’s seductive, sultry and velvet-voiced but also a bit scary – a tantalising combo of allure and menace. Within minutes, she’s straddling a male audience member in the front row before enlisting the help of two others whom she dubs ‘Shaven Haven’ and ‘Silver Fox’ to carry her back to the stage, legs akimbo.
Once back-on-the-boards, she announces that what we are about to witness is all about ‘letting loose, letting go, and getting a little bit intimate.’ Aided by the ‘punky, freaky and weirdo’ acts she will introduce us to over the next 90 minutes. This is interspersed at interludes with the lady herself taking to the stage in an array of different costumes and singing songs with racy lyrics, such as one which regales the tale of how she was fed gin by her Oma (granny) when she was just knee-high to a stiletto.
First up is Blue Phoenix, who twirls his unbelievably flexible and barely-covered body, complete with sky-scraper 12-inch heels on his feet, around a mid-stage, hastily-erected pole. It’s muscle town, sinew city – total brawnsville. And, yeah, we can see why he won Mr Pole Dance World last year.
It’s a real heart-in-mouth moment – several of ‘em actually – to witness aerial duo, The Seifart Sisters, contort and bend around each other with sublime skill and subtlety. This would be impressive enough on terra firma, but they do what they do mid-air. And without any kind of safety net.
A very different aerial act arrives in the form of the balletic Joe Keeley whose body weaves in and out of attached-to-the-ceiling, stage-trailing silks with such grace it’s as if he were another piece of fabric. The act of muscley drag queen Adam Malone, who apparently ran away to join the circus at a young age, is one of a kind. Let’s just say, I never imagined that a teabag and teaspoon could be used in such an inventive way. Looks a bit painful to me but Adam doesn’t flinch.
Then there’s high-octane, highflyer Bella Diosa. She contorts her amazing body into some eye-watering positions, she eats fire, she hangs by her hair… just one of these would do for me! One can but dream.
So, to conclude, if you happen to be in the Smoke, I can think of no better way to spend a pre- or post-Christmas cold winter’s evening than being warmly and weirdly entertained by the magnificent Miss D and her troupe of remarkable ‘reprobates’. I run into our hostess on the way out and ask her if the gin thing is true. ‘One hundred percent,’ she smiles. ‘Proof!’ Rather like her show, then!
To have your own night at the Kabarett…
Tickets from £25
21st November – 6th January 2024
Get your Kabarett tickets today
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