Voodoo Vaudeville, Cabaret Berlin

Review in Issue 16-2 | Summer 2004

There's plenty of New Vaudeville around – mostly pastiche and parody with very little substance – but Voodoo Vaudeville are one step ahead of the game. Years of experience, at their home base at Komedia in Brighton and touring to festivals elsewhere, have gained them a deserved reputation for class acts glued together by a core-team of kooky chorus girls, jazzy tranny musicians and the decadently debonair Master of Ceremonies Chris Cresswell.

This particular Voodoo was themed around the ever-appealing camp classic ‘Cabaret' – an obvious choice but handled well. Helen Kane (whose Marilyn is one of the best female cabaret acts on the circuit) swapped her blonde wig for a sleek black Liza page boy to play out another well observed aspect of the feminine naif-clown; choreographer Janine Fletcher and her girls gave us dance routines with plenty of pizazz, and for the grand finale we were dragged into contemporary political awareness by a rendition of ‘Tomorrow Belongs to Me' sung to a background image of Blair and the burning cities of Iraq.

The theme wasn't stretched to breaking point: the speciality acts existed as little worlds unto themselves – and what bizarre worlds.

Mim King moved from mad scarecrow woman to contortionist extraordinaire, arms almost dislocating as she pulled them around her body, a fiendish grin and knowing wink challenging the audience; clown Danny Schlesinger's musical saw playing and batty balloon bouncing epitomised the essence of circus – the art of doing something perfectly useless perfectly; Chris Cresswell and Avis Cockbill brought us a corset dance sur pointe that had the perversely surreal beauty of a living Magritte; Swizzleshaker's Cocktails for Two was a lovely barboy-meets-girl routine comprising physical comedy and popular dance; Ruth Glaser gave us a mute rendition of 'Bright Eyes' that was funny, sexy and scary all at the same time.

All this and Baby Warhol too for those who have not met him: Baby Warhol is a small, naked, nasty puppet with the bite of a Barbarella doll – ask him questions and prepare to be humiliated.

Komedia's café-theatre space is the perfect setting for the show – filled to overflowing with tables occupied by wine-swilling Voodoo devotees, waiters easing through the crowds bearing trays of exotic titbits, glasses clinking, cigarette smoke swirling, saxophones singing. Even the intervals are entertaining with the scantily clad chorus alternating between languorous lolling on chairs and churlish tormenting of the red face/blue face mime artists (and of course tormenting of mime artists should be encouraged at all times). At the end of the show, space is cleared and the audience take to the dance floor as Scissor Sisters pound from the PA.

So a good time was had by all. And it has to be said – others play at vaudeville, but Voodoo Vaudeville play harder. This is the genuine article – classy, arsey, arty entertainment that's hopefully coming to a town near you. So get out your glad rags, paint your face, put on your dancing shoes and join the party.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Feb 2004

This article in the magazine

Issue 16-2
p. 28