London Cabaret Reviewed: La Clique ★★★★★, The Grotteaux ★★★ & The Windmill Soho ★★
Cabaret is taking over the town this spring and summer, with three new London cabaret shows opening within a few weeks of each other from Woolwich to the West End. To Do List is here to review all three, and encourage you to get whooping soon!
★★★★★ La Clique | Underbelly Festival – Cavendish Square | Until 3 July
La Clique is the reigning queen of cabaret with jaw-dropping acts, charisma and panache aplenty.
The latest La Clique show has arrived at Underbelly’s Cavendish Square spiegeltent, with a mostly fresh cast featuring a few performers from last year with some epic new additions.
The shows format is legendary with hype build-up, storytelling and pizazz unlike anything else in London right now. The variety, skill and pure revelry of the show is astounding, with surprises round every corner.
Sam Goodburn’s (Revel Puck Circus) lovable, geeky clown is the standout performance, giving us belly laughs and thrills aplenty whilst scantily clad on a unicycle. Hopefully he’ll be added to the artists page on La Clique’s website soon – he deserves a big shout-out.
LJ Marles gives two stunning performances, proving his versatility and cheeky sense of humour – we saw him through fresh eyes, and particularly loved his opening performance.
Miss Jolie Papillon defies the often cringey stereotypes of burlesque – she is a world-class performer who oozes charisma, sex and style.
And finally, Ashley Stroud’s voice is a heavenly treat and the music throughout the night is upbeat, unexpected and creates a party vibe even on a wet Wednesday in May!
La Clique is an unmissable, joyous, romp – this is one of our favourite shows, at the top of its game!
★★★ The Grotteaux | Woolwich Works | Until 4 June
It’s a reviewing cliche, but The Grotteaux suffers from a sum-of-parts deficiency.
All involved, on our visit, offered intrigue and the potential for cabaret magic. Shotgun Carousel, hosts and house band, are a beguiling bunch, with no shortage of talent, wit or gumption. Headline guests John Travulva and MiSs brought entertaining routines and a variety show diversity.
There was decent burlesque, well-chosen songs, and a pervasive desire for inclusivity and acceptance. All good – except, some key ingredient has been left out of the recipe. Perhaps the fault lies with the performance space, lit (by natural sunlight) like a garden centre cafe.
Or, maybe it’s the dislocation in the calendar of a show originally intended for the festive period. Maybe it’s neither of these things: sometimes the best of intentions can’t save all the right stuff ending up a hot mess.
The Grotteaux’ heart is in the right place. The show is overwhelmingly progressive championing messages about inclusivity, trans lives and race. Lilly Snatchdragon is an exquisite host oozing sexy charm in a high pitched American voice. Her banter does go on a bit and brace yourself for her audience walk abouts but she is a true cabaret superstar.
There’s fun to be had at The Grotteaux, and you’ll struggle to find such a diversity-embracing line-up elsewhere. But you might need to take your own atmosphere.
★★ The Windmill Soho | Great Windmill Street | Ongoing
An underwhelming dinner show in the world-famous Windmill Soho.
The excitement of being in the world famous Windmill showgirl Mecca is incredible. The evening starts on a high with a Q&A with original Windmill girl Jill Shapiro. A fascinating insight into the theatrical world of Laura Henderson, Vivian van Dam and their epic sounding, highly choreographed, Windmill Girl performances.
The main show ‘A PRIVATE AFFAIR’ is hosted by Miss B, an outre drag queen, who seems like they would be better placed at 2am in a sweaty night club style or a rowdy drag brunch rather than an early night weekday dinner show. The patter is loud, blue and uninspiring, making the audience feel a little awkward rather than relaxed into the show.
The circus and cabaret acts were slightly predictable and had little flair or acknowledgement for the history of the venue, so stunningly told in the film Mrs Henderson Presents. The projection-mapped nod to the tableau vivants (still nudes) that helped the Windmill evade the wrath of being closed down by the Lord Chamberlain in the 30s was rather dull. The producers should visit Circus restaurant, La Clique or La Soiree and see what makes a 3 minute act really shine through with narrative, cheekiness and surprises.
The food and lacklustre service does not match these opulent surroundings or magical darkness of the outdoor signage and entrance lobby. Perhaps the place does not really welcome vegetarians but the rice-heavy meal of average arancini balls and salt flavoured risotto followed by a tiny dessert platter lacked imagination and taste. Drinks included the Heiress, a sort of Sex on the Beach, which is served in a high heel shoe. The near-impossible task of quaffing whilst drinking from a stiletto is a bit of a let down.
Overall a slightly shabby tribute to the once iconic Windmill, which needs to find more inspiration its remarkable history.
Occasionally the To Do List team are forced to work together.
Rupert likes: free, cheap & offbeat London, especially: cabaret, art, theatre, pop-ups, eating out, quirky films, museums, day trips, social enterprise & much more.
Stuart likes: nice pubs, film marathons, not doing real marathons, bad comedy, plays/musicals with shorter second halves, and the Oxford comma.