Black Cat Cabaret – London Wonderground

Even in the depths of winter, The Southbank is a fun place to hang out but it becomes a playground for adults in summer with a variety of festivals covering a huge range of entertainment with enticing pop-up food and drink stalls also vying for our attention.

Crammed into a site that includes the fabulous upside down purple cow, Wonderland saucily beckons. This summer, the Black Cat Cabaret is straying from its West London home to rub sequinned shoulders with an astonishingly varied clutch of cabaret, circus, variety and burlesque shows.

Until 11 September they’re in the fabulous Spielgeltent with Nocturne, their own take on cabaret noir. Although it’s cabaret in structure and evidently a beautiful homage to the Fin de siecle style, there is much more to this: not only with the inclusion of contemporary circus but with a story for us to follow. This is not always a technique that works; audiences can often leave a circus performance perplexed but this one nails it. A traveller on the Underground is guided through his subconscious by the singing compère, the gorgeously glamorous Lili La Scala. She coaxes out the drama and darkness in his psyche so an initially beautiful but safe acro balance duet becomes risky and wild. The night I went there were aerial chains, hoop and fire, all flawlessly executed but with an edge: high drama, thrills and sex.

Of course, our subconscious is wilful and uncontrollable so the poor traveller can’t just enjoy the sexy dancing girls forever. His loud, brassy (roller skating!)mother turns up to embarrass him; bad news for him but great for us as Amy G’s larger than life character is terrific fun. The wobbly skating routine fools no one of course; it takes enormous skill. She also taps, shows us exotic bar tricks, does an old school fan dance – as a chicken – and sings in French.

One gripe is that the stage is perhaps too low, I was only a few rows back but our view was restricted when anything went on low down on stage. Be aware too that you do have to queue a while to get into the tent. Forewarned is forearmed then and small prices to pay for a thrilling night out.

Reviewed by Alison Bray