I still cringe at the memory of an attempt a few
years back to mount a string of satirical soirees at the National
Theatre. Metropolis Kabarett, as it was called, involved the
transformation of one of the building's upper levels into a cafe, and
consisted of topical skits and songs in a Brecht/Weill mould. An
experience less saturated with sex and danger it would be hard to
What a relief to find that a similar
sterile fate has not befallen C'est Barbican, a cabaret evening that
aims to turn the Pit theatre into a "Christmas performance palais".
Mounted by Duckie, a club that sprang up in The Vauxhall Tavern - a
working-class, defiantly anti-Soho watering hole - the whole occasion
does at least start with authenticity on its side. Even so, there's no
underestimating how deadening an arts centre's ambience can be.
However, Duckie - performers Ursula Martinez,
Christopher Green, Marisa Carnesky and Miss High Leg Kick - quite
simply refuse to cede an inch of space to any percolating stuffiness.
In a saucy, kitsch mini-carnival of arty happenings, they turn the idea
of a sex club on its head to delicious, delirious effect.
by waiters into a murky cafe interior, punters are directed to one of a
dozen tables and invited to choose from the menu as they swill
champagne, puff on a complimentary cigar and natter to the strangers
sitting next to them. What will it be? "Professor Rigidlips and
Friends", "Girl on Girl Mexican Wrestling", "Boobelina"? Each act is
priced in Duckie dollars and with a maximum spend of 40 per table, that
works out as about six treats in total.
performers, in flesh-coloured bodywear, are sent scurrying this way and
that to meet audience requirements, you swiftly realise you're in for
intellectual striptease rather than the real thing.
as with "Natcho Snatcho", where you're invited to dip a nacho in a bowl
of salsa wedged in a very private part of the female anatomy, things
veer towards the X-rated. And the talented guest star Lucifire, whose
fortes include hammering a nail through her nose and jumping barefoot
in a bucket of broken glass, introduces a visceral element of circus
But, for the most part, the
all-too-brief solo spots play irreverently with expectations: "Party
Party" turns out to entail a quick singalong to The Okey-Cokey, "Golden
Throat" resembles a speedy group karaoke session. You may leave feeling
slightly cheated; but that, I think, is the show's camp, artful point.