Circus and Cabaret

 

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A review by Pauline Flannery for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

 

A co-creator and some of the team that brought you Le Reve and Boom Boom Club present

 

 

 

 

The Black Cat

 

 


 

Café de Paris

 

 

Every Friday night through March 29, 2013


 

The Black Cat, a show in two halves, is a tale of two cities. The eponymous feline ‘decadent descendant of Le Chat Noir Club,‘Paris, slinks in and around Café de Paris, London, amidst exotic trappings frequented by Noel Coward, Louise Brooks and Marlene Dietrich. Yet this modern mog, recreated by a co-creater and some of the team that brought you Le Reve and Boom Boom Club, oozes sensuality and sex appeal. The acts are classy and performed on a postage stamp-sized stage, shaped by shell-like footlights which suggest the ballroom’s Art Deco origins.


On hand, working the room with consummate ease, is magician Laura London with red hair, red shoes and black magic. She gave me two ends of a rope. Two became one; now I believe…..To the strains of ‘Wonderful/Marvellous’, the imaginings of Coward’s crystal-cut, sophisticated world is easy to conjure. There was a table of bright young things - exotic animals in highly textured suits and dress, hats at a jaunty angle, spats – sharp, crisp and shining, with neck tie pins, silk scarves and diamante bustiers. They had a languor, a grace, which belonged to a bygone age; the only hint of now, a movie camera.


The evening, absinthe-inspired, is steeped in the La Belle Époque, a world lived for and governed by pleasure. At the extreme is the extraordinary Chrisalys, ‘the pig from hell,’ who turns greed into an art form, at the other a riotous mime to Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’.As we descend into the underbelly, the eccentric accordionist, Tom Baker, ‘maintaining his right to paranoid insight’, is twinned with the talented chanteuse, Lauren Hagen, of ‘do it to me bad, Johnny’; both enjoy audience participation of a singular kind. And there was an aerialist, the astonishing Katharine Arnold, who shimmied up a thick, red rope tied herself and it up in knots in an unbroken, balletic movement from beginning to end. You and I would have rope burns, she didn’t even break into a sweat. In fact sweat, or specifically exertion, was absent.


These unearthly beings, super-fit, pliant and with a cat’s indifference, perform tricks which appear in the first instance for their amusement rather than ours. This, of course, only adds to the allure. The black cat acrobat: black beret, black braces with gamin, Gallic, enigmatic stare, Vicky Butterfly, starlight burlesque, as Loie Fuller in customised serpentine dance and the highly disciplined dancers in Sappho-inspired tango or Moulin Rouge can-can. Each, with roots in a colourful vaudevillian world, brought the house down.


Keeping a tight rein on proceedings is Dusty Limits, ‘the Prince of Darkness,’ as the MC. His sparkling eyes, great voice and smooth operator moves make him a natural ring master, while his black bird-feather trim suggests a predatory danger. This ambivalence is the nub of the show’s success, this alchemic mix between the erotic and simplistic, the safe with the dangerous and the new with old-world grandeur.


As if to emphasise the point, an old chandelier hangs from the ballroom’s ceiling. How many famous/infamous people has it looked down on? Go look at it, looking at you, for a cat may look at a king. The food and ambiance is excellent, but be quick. The bright young things seated at table, will spawn, while le chat noir purrs appreciatively from the steps of Montmartreto the slipways of Soho.


 

 
Café de Paris
3 – 4 Coventry Street, London W1D 6BL
020 7734 7700
(nearest tube Piccadilly or Leicester Square)
Every Friday from 8.30pm, doors open from 7.00pm
Tickets £15, with dinner and early bird options
www.cafedeparis.com
Cafe de Paris has a strict 18 and over age policy, and we have a smart/casual dress policy. This means no trainers, T-shirts, hoodies or caps. Jeans are accepted as long as they are very smart, no holes or tears. Dressing up isn't compulsory, but it is encouraged! Please also be aware that whilst we do allow hen parties, we don't allow any kind of hen paraphernalia. This includes badges, sashes, tiaras etc.
http://www.theblackcat.info
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