We found ourselves in the bizarro world of EastEnd Cabaret: a phantasmagoria of communist puppets, giant false eyelashes, a rigor mortis erection and a hermaphrodite. Somewhere between street theatre and an intimate gig, the show filled a kinky cabaret-shaped hole that I never knew existed in me.
Amongst its numerous and exotic delights, this arresting and naughty performance features the funniest rendition of a ping-pong ball trick I’ve ever seen – and I went to Thailand on my gap yaar. Zany duo Bernadette Byrne and Victor Victoria have understood and implemented the axiom that anything that is repulsive has the potential to be attractive. Their comedy glitters with the splendiferousness of innovation and exquisite comic timing. And despite their professed antagonism (the perils of flat sharing) the pair literally make sweet music together. Bernadette’s vocals and ukulele jive with Victy’s accompaniment on the keyboard, musical saw and Peruvian nose flute (what else?).
Whether it’s the close quarters or the snuff available behind the bar, something about the venue and the cabaret overwhelms you with a kind of participatory hysteria. Party atmosphere is guaranteed from 9.30 PM (when the show gets swinging). Thank God, the throng was far more agreeable this time around – clearly the marketeers from Friday Follies have taken the hint that this is my turf now. And when Bernadette serenaded Ben (or was it Bob?) and his pals, they basked in her attentions. Ladies nota bene: a little serenading has big pulling power.
Especially in the panto season, the ubiquity of ‘special’ effects is wearingly abstract and lacking in humanity. So I was thrilled to bits when the immediacy of EC’s performance shocked and rocked my Londonite, iPod-isolated ego. Their unpretentious theatre of the absurd makes perfect sense in the context of this underground mini-bar. In fact, after a cocktail or one (alas, the limitations of the recession bound salary), absurdity makes much more sense than the world outside the Cellar Door. Rolling out of its cocoon onto the cold street, the show’s antic spirit remained with us like a warm overcoat. Circus freakery is good for the soul, darrrling.