La Rêve: Full Moon Special
Full-moon nights are said to turn people’s heads and breed all sorts of sinful urges in the human heart, but so what? La Rêve does the same every Friday. When London’s supper club of choice for Weimarian abandon announces a full moon special, you can’t help but wonder what depths of debauchery remain unprobed by the shameless crew in their lavish Piccadilly haunt at Café de Paris. With the solid reputation the show has earned for top-notch cabaret, burlesque and other variety talent, though, the question becomes largely moot.
The heathen affair could hardly have featured a better start than Luna Rosa’s exotic charms. Unsurprisingly in synch with the pale satellite’s spells, she initiates the proceedings with – what else? – her mesmerizing Cairo Nocturno routine.
Lunar influence continues with the many-guised character comedy of Sarah-Louise Young and Abi Collins. Ms Young contributes the popular favourites of her acclaimed Cabaret Whore franchise, trailer-park darling Sammy Mavis, Jr and knife-wielding chansonnière La Poule Plombée – the latter enjoying exquisite spotlight work perfectly matched to her booming voice and diva attitude.
Collins, in turn, makes an art of crass impropriety by channeling two ladies of absolutely no class. The wiry comedian tests relationships with aggressive flirts that border territory demarcation as Jennifer Lopez-parody Angel Rodriguez “from the block”, later returning to embarrass more men as Las Vegas alcoholic Peggy Sued. Riddled with malapropisms and double entendres, the characters are a clever, engaging way to dress up very standard acrobatic stunts (multiple hula-hoop-spinning, balancing acts, etc.) – though accomplished, they’d hardly come to life as vividly without her farcical mannerisms. Headliner Empress Stah, by comparison, relies solely on her (admittedly effortless) dexterity in a set of aerial hoop exploits, yielding an impressive, but rather predictable display of technique.
The Strip returns to the spotlight in another burlesque treat, the newest act by the irreverent Kitty Bang Bang (of Hurly Burly Show fame). Designed especially for the 2011 Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend, in Las Vegas, the skit introduces Ms Bang Bang as a cynical showgirl, complete with garish fringed costume, coloured balloons and an oversized die for a headpiece. Balancing en pointe for much of the number, she pops her balloons with a disdainful cigar, cops a drink off an obliging male patron and segues into a very money-minded reveal, though not without a good round of her trademark fire-breathing tricks first. Putting her many talents at the service of her seamless pantomimes, Kitty Bang Bang makes the case for burlesque as a fertile medium for satire like few others.
Rounding up the cabaret bill is Brighton’s favourite Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer, armed with his trusty banjolele, cartoon moustache and plenty of rhythm backing tracks. Though a tad predictable as far as musical comedy goes, the well-mannered rapper proves an instant hit with his parodies (a rewrite of Elvis’s A Little Less Conversation as a petition for more kissing in porn is particularly representative). His floor-stomping, strobe-lit version of I Like to Move It is guaranteed to raise the roof. For a few minutes, the elegant venue turns into a summer rave.
It’s always refreshing to see a show with unique character, despite an ever-changing line-up. More than the formidable talents featured in its rotating bills, it is in the details that La Rêve reveals its unmistakable personality. The suave tunes by live pianist Michael Roulston excel both as an accompaniment to selected acts and as a rich soundtrack for the interval, which also relies on Laura London’s table magic to keep guests entertained. The Friday revue is also the primary spot to enjoy flapper duo The Bee’s Knees, the regular opening act. Watching their graceful Charleston numbers is a time-traveling journey to glittering nights of pre-war decadence.
La Rêve has a face, and it could hardly be a more fitting one than the Brechtian visage of Dusty Limits. With a resourceful voice and unexpected antics, the host meticulously seduces spectators of both sexes, weaving a climate of unapologetic mischief around the room. While dazzling listeners with beautifully perverse takes on everything from Cole Porter and Friedrich Hollaender to Geraldine Quinn and Natalie Imbruglia, the smooth scoundrel sits on laps, races patrons for leftover wine and promptly confiscates indiscreet mobile phones for inspection. The full moon finds him in an unusually theatrical mood, enlisting a chair for an onstage partner and proceeding to fellate, deflower and scar the acquiescent fitting beyond redemption during a lively English-language parody of the Dietrich classic Johnny, Wenn Du Geburtstag Hast. You’ve been warned.
Getting rid of the dining tables to make way for a dance floor, the Friday afterparties at Café de Paris allow discounted after-show entry, for an epilogue of loud techno and fire-breathing stilt-walkers. The red-tinted recesses of the VIP lounge, however, offer a more intimate experience to ticket-holders, with a separate bar and cushioned beds that already enjoy a reputation of their own. Expect to find the performers there, in varying degrees of sobriety, unceremoniously mingling with the civilians.
La Rêve gives you glamour without the pomp, variety without pretence. For a night of lush abandon and uncompromising, politically incorrect fun, London has no show like it. Seize the chance to indulge in that most elusive of oxymorons, affordable luxury, weekly if it takes your fancy: at La Rêve, it’s always full moon.
La Rêve. Hosted by Dusty Limits. Café de Paris, Piccadilly, London. Fridays, 20:30. £15-45. www.lareve.co.uk
All photos by Sin Bozkurt, exclusively for Erotic Review