Cabaret is back, and we don’t mean the musical (though there’s a fun, raunchy production of that show currently on in London, but we digress already.) No, we mean the return of high-kicking, can-can dancing, burlesque meets grotesque, fag cum drag, absinthe-fuelled cabaret NIGHTLIFE. Not since Weimar Berlin has cabaret managed to be so pervasive, so radical and so much fun. (Times of war tend to bring out the darkness in us all.)
For those in the know about downtown scenes from Sydney to Soho, cabaret acts have had something of a revival in recent years. The most triumphant and subversive artists out there are, of course, KIKI AND HERB – whose shows on Broadway, Carnegie Hall, and London have brought to a wider public the unique, politically engaged, angry and emotional work of Justin Bond and Kenny Mellman. Currently based again in New York (though they tend to pick up and move abroad without much notice, so keep an eye out), they continue to terrorize audiences in shows at Joe’s Pub on Sunday evenings at the witching hour. This is a must-see sort of thing, and we won’t spoil it by saying too much. Suffice to say that emotionally-packed covers of Gil Scott Heron, Radiohead, the Magnetic Fields and Kate Bush co-mingle. And that’s only in the first medley.
Also in New York is the latest clubland sensation, THE BOX – a small but fully-formed Moulin Rouge meets Vaudeville meets Whore’s Boudoir sort of theatre in the Lower East Side. This is the site of nightly decadence, complete with nipple-pierced MC and showgirls aplenty! (And showboys, too, though I wouldn’t want to guess which is which.) On a recent night there with the hipsters, we spotted among New York’s beautiful and damned such creatures of the night as Lindsay Lohan, who has adopted The Box as her second home when in New York. Oh, how she loves a stage – which she took to, the moment she had the chance. (Question: Has anyone ever seen Lindsay in the daylight? Another question: Does anyone know whether she can see her reflection in a mirror?) The Box ensures a joyous night out – ‘that’s what comes from too much pills and liquor’ – and things get a little sloppy, in the nicest possible way. The balcony area where we sat has curtains that allow you to close yourself off from the rest of the world – in case privacy is required (and in our case it was), which allows for intimacy amid the mayem. Everyone is writing about The Box, so get there soon, assuming, of course, that you can get in. (By the way, it sounds gayer than it is – in fact, it’s fun for the whole family! Over-21s only, please.)
London has been well-served for several years by East London’s cabaret bar of choice, the imaginative, devilish BISTROTHEQUE. It’s no surprise that Kiki and Herb play this little venue when they’re in town, because they know a good crowd when they see it. Bistrotheque is part lovely brasserie (lobster and chips upstairs), part slinky bar (tasty cocktails), and part seedy old-school cabaret room (beware frequent nudity and foul language). Its greatest hits include such shows as ‘The Night of Thousand Jay Astons’ – and for those of you who don’t know Jay Aston, you’re too young – and the ‘Tranny Lipsinkers Competition’ which goes on for eight insane, glorious weeks. We’ve also seen some teenage breakdancers doing their thing well past their bedtimes. In short, Bistrotheque is a hoot, one of the hubs of trendy Shoreditch’s vibrant nightlife. Ask for David or Pablo, and tell them that we sent you.