The Chris Cross Carny Cabaret
Whist watching The Chris Cross Carny Cabaret, I began to rummage through my head for memories of wrong turns, missed opportunities and questionable choices. How did I end up here, at Madame JoJo’s, reviewing such a pile of garbage? Act after act of cringe-inducing talentlessness, spearheaded by a dirty young Geordie. There’s your quote for the poster.
What a truly dull evening it was. What did I see? Contact juggling, freakshow nail-hammering, double-sword swallowing, powerdrill roulette, magic, comedy, burlesque… Yet to describe the show in such general, generic terms constitutes a great disservice to the specific ghastliness of its components. Consider Mad Mat the Crystal Twat. Here is a man in his early forties who plays around with a crystal ball, rolling it up and down his arms. After a handful of “tricks”, he half-strips to reveal the word “showtime” tattooed on his back, and looks positively nonplussed not to receive a standing ovation for his efforts. In his defence, he wasn’t the only mad twat on the programme.
A collection of deluded artistes followed the same repetitive formula. They would come on, ask for applause, delay the “reveal” part of their tricks for as long as possible with mindless banter, instruct the audience to cheer and clap and “go mental”, only to deliver one final anticlimactic blow and bow out with little style. No charm. No charisma. Only the promise of entertainment that never quite made it to the stage.
The stand-up comedians got some tepid laughs from an increasingly sceptical crowd. Tony Roberts’ best line concerned mixing drugs. (“Speed with MJ makes you do sweet FA, but faster.”) He then made some quip about Lady Di that didn’t go down well with some girl at the front. “Not funny,” she shouted. Too soon, love? Really? Bruce the Australian walked in clutching a scrap of paper, marking ticks and crosses according to how well a particular joke of his was received. Highlights included the tale of how he switched shampoos in order to let his hair down and a poignant observation about big penises being a pain in the ass. Pa-doom-pam… tsss!
But the star of the show was Chris Cross himself, an emcee with little class but plenty of confidence. “You can trust me,” he told us: “because I’m a man and I’m from Newcastle.” Many hosts use their position of power to flirt with young women, but something about Chris’ on-stage antics and mannerisms bordered on abuse. One volunteer was clearly uncomfortable.
I get the impression that, deep in his heart, Chris kinda knows the show just isn’t very good. At one point, he described it as “a drunken shambles”. Whist pouring wine down his own pants, he wondered: “Is this entertaining or is it just stupid?” When I met him during the interval, the first thing he asked me was whether I was drinking. I guess that’s how these places make their money, but hey, that shouldn’t get in the way of trying to put on a good performance.
One thing that plays in Chris’ favour is his friends; a photographer and illustrator who captured the event in better light than my disappointed prose could muster. What do you expect? My notes from the night are full of canny insights such as “pretty pathetic” and “embarrassingly bad”. Just as great art can inspire great criticism, the opposite is also true. My experience of the show was very far from positive. For the most part, I was bored to the bone.
The Chris Cross Carny Cabaret. Madame JoJo’s, Soho, London. Second Wednesday of the month. £8 in advance, £10 on the door. www.madamejojos.com
Photo credits: Chris Harvey – www.harveysart.com