The Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club has been transformed into a garish spectacle for the club’s monthly Friday League cabaret. An enormous neon pink light-up cardboard heart frames the stage, 90s cheese pumps through the speakers and a rainbow of colours from the disco lights swirl around your head. The effect is somewhat disorientating, but not overwhelming once you have had a drink or two.
The cabaret performances are somewhat eclectic in content, from Krupta Chara’s Bollywood dancing to Maxine Brawl’s interpretive creation making Barbie and Ken dolls dance to the tunes of Jason Donovan. Each act is relatively informal, giving the audience plenty of time afterwards to quiz the performers over drinks. The ‘variety’ nature of the acts and the constant interjections from a buxom host makes this feel somewhat like a poor man’s Britain’s Got Talent, just without the judges and with extra encouragement to drink and dance. The whole atmosphere is slightly forced, but this is made up for by the increasing quality of acts in the second half. Antonin Cheding and Laura Lorenzu’s unusual dance style is perfect for creating their fascinating piece about the oddities of train travel based upon an experience at Birmingham’s Snow Hill station.
The dancers provide the performances with the most artistic integrity of the night. Another great piece is Flatfeet Dance Company’s film Signed For: an atmospheric interpretation of the several stages of a female friendship. It is simplistic in style and both the dancers featured (Rebecca Dushal and Maxine Philips) are extremely talented, but the video is also extremely aware of its own imperfections and limitations, making it an extremely humbling watch. Habib Bira Oura gives an energetic performance with his remarkable ability to switch between dance styles, in a performance that covers the styles of Michael Jackson, Beyoncé and Parisian mime artists, to name a few. This is entertaining, nut lacking in a narrative through-line to help to knit all of his different styles together.
I would recommend the Friday League as a night out for anyone who has an open mind and is willing to watch absolutely any style of performance, just so long as you are armed with several good friends to help stomach the occasional sprinkling of superficial glitter and cheesy songs. The club provides plenty to do outside merely watching the shows, with post-it note art games and drinks aplenty. The choices of acts for the cabaret are somewhat eclectic and unconnected. Although they are mostly all commendable in their own right, it would be great to be able to trace a definite theme within all of the shows in next month’s Friday League, so that the evening seems more complete and less a collection of disparate theatrical experiences.
The Friday League is running at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club for one Friday every month, indefinitely. For more information and tickets, please visit the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club website.