I’ve always been meaning to check out The Black Cat Cabaret. It markets itself very well, conjuring up imagery relating to the very best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) of 1930s Parisian excess, debauchery and bourgeois frivolity. It also appeared to be quite exclusive, with its (admittedly a little twee) ‘secret location’, only to be revealed when tickets are bought.
And so it came to be that on a wet and miserable Friday evening I made my way to this ‘secret location’ (clue: it’s next to St. Pancras Station) to see what The Black Cat had to offer.
Emcees Frisky and Marcel Lucont make a decent enough pairing. Despite their opening skit resembling that time Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood did the Brit Awards, their relationship grew into something crisp and sharp towards the end of the evening. Frisky has a good voice, belting out ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ to close the show (although I was less convinced by her alcoholism shtick) and Lucont revels in his aloof French persona and is delightfully sneery. All he needed was a row of onions around his neck and a beret to complete the stereotype. His performance reminded me of how much I enjoyed Little Bulb’s Orpheus at Battersea Arts Centre last year.
The night included some genuinely unnerving and grotesque performances. A greedy pig creature (I honestly don’t know how best to describe him) took to the stage, complete with PVC apron, a pair of frilly knickers and not much else, and proceeded to throw some food about before getting down to some fire eating. The sheer heat created by these balls of fire was thoroughly exciting, almost singeing my eyebrows as I sat on the front table (which begs the question: what do those sitting up in the mezzanine get out of the performance?). If pig creatures are not necessarily your thing either, then the Cabaret Rouge dancers help to pull the evening back up to level of class and quality. Deploying a clever use of Fosse-esque choreography, as well as a Black Swan aesthetic, they manage to appear both timeless as well as rooted in 1930s faux chic, including one having a striking (and I guess deliberate) resemblance to Marlene Dietrich. Equally impressive is the acrobatic Black Cat himself, who oozes a form of menacing sex appeal.
When Frisky and Lucont bring proceedings to a close we are encouraged to dance the night away. With most in the audience having already completed a nine-to-five stint and still in suits, most scrabble for the exits. So perhaps the evening is a little underwhelming, but with cabaret often a mixed-bag anyway, I suppose The Black Cat can be termed a success.
The Black Cat Cabaret is at a secret location on 14 February, 1 & 29 March 2014. For more information see The Black Cat Cabaret website.