Cabaret Roulette: Evolution
Royal Vauxhall Tavern, 13th April 2016
Vauxhall, London, a humid Wednesday evening in very early spring. Traffic thunders like blood through an artery, neon signs flicker into life above bars and restaurants, women in leather swish by on their way home from work. There is noise, motion, the collision of atoms and colourful explosions. Somewhere from out of this mechanical madness springs a gorgeous and intriguing spear wielding tribesgirl, followed by the pleasurably sinister laugh of a wicked Irish nun.
Now…just what kind of event have we got ourselves into this time?
Inside, the RVT is tight and confined but cool and seductive and arousing…like latex, if you don’t mind me saying. There’s something comfortable about a venue that is low on space and high on variety. Intimacy is good; a great distance between us is bad.
As for the crowd – men in dresses trade hugs with other men heavily pierced and tattooed. Couples sit and drink after work. Friends catch up, make jokes, cackle a hundred laughs. This feels like a good place to be. And it is.
Somewhere within all of this drinking and laughing steps forward Emma Hook and her helpful maid Lilly SnatchDragon to introduce the show…and seeing as we’re in their hands for the evening I guess we had better buckle (or handcuff) ourselves up for the ride ahead.
But then suddenly…
The bar darkens…the music from the movie 2001: a Space Odyssey hums and shifts throughout the building…from within the darkness bounces an ape! The ape dances onto the stage…sniffs around a monolithic hoop bathed in light…and it begins to pick it up and dance and hula hoop to the music. Very slowly the ape begins to strip its self of its head and fur to reveal…a Mariposa Bop!
Free of her ape skin, Mariposa busted her moves and shook her thing before ending abruptly with a cheeky swish of her ‘Homosapien’ derrière.
Voila! Cabaret Roulette Evolution!
So what comes after apes? A cockroach of course!
Played by Ana Kiss this cockroach danced rather beautifully to a mixture of music by Radiohead (Creep), Christina Aguilera (Fighter)…before suddenly exploding into a buxom MC Hammer (Can’t touch this) dance routine that included a very cool cockroach limb striptease. Which is something you definitely won’t see at many burlesque shows. What a strange thought. Insects performing burlesque shows at the end of the world…
From half naked cockroaches we veered into the Jurassic Park era (no, not a stripping Dickie Attenborough) courtesy of an all-singing, all-dancing, all-burlesquing, atomic bombshell dinosaur played by Lena Mae.
The last time we caught up with Lena she was wearing a mariachi suit with white sneakers…kind of Johnny Cash meets Run DMC. This time she was dressed as a dinosaur with a silver dino head while singing ‘Dinos are a Girl’s Best Friend’ (to the tune of Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend). Showing goofy cunning, this was a fun and games act featuring Lena’s finest showgirl charms.
It was somewhere around the end of Lena’s dinosaur act that Lilly transformed from a helpful but downtrodden maid into a sequin clad, peroxide blonde hellion…the type that shouts and demands and shouts and demands. It was at this point that Emma Hook wisely shuffled us off into the intermission.
When we came back a little later the stage had been rigged with three microphones. Who on earth for? The Four Tops (minus one) singing Loco in Acapulco? No. And that’s possibly a good thing as we got to enjoy the accordion masterwork of Anna Lou Larkin and her Scottish broth of anger and malevolence. I’m usually 50/50 about accordion acts, but I really enjoyed this devious little piece of venom.
My timing may be a little out, but I think sometime around here we experienced Lilly hiring her self a maid from somewhere in S.E. Asia…which obviously turned the tables somewhat, with Lilly as the boss of bosses and the poor maid being verbally stomped into a pulp. That sounds particularly evil, but they’ll be an explanation at the end of the review.
So having dispatched with the maids and all the demanding, demonic weirdness…
Ruby Wednesday blasted onto the stage covering all of the elements (fire, water etc…) and I think if I’m not mistaken, some kind of Pokemon theme (apologies if wrong). Ruby’s act, featuring at least twenty to thirty different song clips, involved exquisite timing. No, make that incredibly exquisite timing. This really was a well tuned act involving split second adjustment to the element themed music. A very clever act and I loved the ‘FUCK’ ending.
After all that funk, we needed a little bit of jazz to balance out the chaos. For that we were dealt the loving hands of Jeff Goldblum aka Laurence Owen. For Jeff’s act I seem to have satsumas written down on my notes. Why? I honestly can’t remember, but I do remember the dude being incredibly smooth and mischievous.
So once the good Pepper* had swept from the stage, we were handed into the blazing, decadent and anarchic arms of the archduke of mayhem…The Quirk…who set about burning most things in sight. No really, he did. It’s not an exaggeration. The Quirk burned up David Cameron, he incinerated the world, and then for his final act, he swallowed a burning microphone in one.
Monster Magnet had a good term for this sort of act…
Through the oblivion and fiery ending stepped Chastity Belt to sing us into the rest of the evening. There’s something endearing about an angel at the end of the world…even if it’s talking about getting pissed to hell and back.
So with that we vanished back into the night like a black leather batman.
I really have to say that Cabaret Roulette is a very smart show. There’s a lot of fun and intelligence on display here. A whole ton of talent, too. Usually you can term something as surreal because of a strange event during a normal occasion. But surrealism feels like the norm at Cabarete Roulette, and I have to say that I love that.
I’ve been wanting to see Mariposa Bop for a while now so to finally see her doing a 2001 themed act dressed as an ape is actually pretty special. Thanks for that. The act itself was a real lightning bolt of pure genius. Just perfect.
Overall I thought it was cool how the whole structure of the show evolved from the dawn of man through to oblivion itself. I also liked the way in which issues such as equality, race and respect were handled and spoken about through the humour and interaction of Emma Hook and Lilly SnatchDragon. Good job.
As for the venue, RVT feels like a fine place to be. You can be yourself, you can have fun, and if you’re on your own then it really doesn’t matter as you don’t feel alone. People actually smile at each other here. They say hello and they are welcoming. This runs through from the door staff to the bar staff to the promoters and the acts and the audience. As an outsider, it seems like this event brings out a lot of regulars who know each other and show their affection for one another. But unlike a lot of places, this is done without being pretentious or cliquey or snobby. This is a human endeavour not an animatronic catwalk. There is soul and a big fucking heart beating like a badass.
So after an evening at the RVT it’s been an evolution for myself and MG. I hadn’t visited the venue or Cabaret Roulette before, although I’d heard some very good things. We’ve gone from enlightened man to ever so slightly more enlightened man (whatever that is?!). So when you think about it, Cab Roulette/RVT offers up a very healthy form of mind expansion. So we’ll definitely be back. We’re hungry for more!
* in the movie ‘A Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou’ Jeff Goldblum plays a Dr who at one point wears a t shirt with a slogan reading ‘I’m a Pepper’.