REVIEW: BLACK CAT CABARET (Underbelly Festival) ★★

With the knowledge that the Black Cat were of one of the resident cabaret shows at this year’s Underbelly Festival and having performed at multiple landmark cabaret venues in London, a high standard was to be expected with some of the best cabaret talent in the city. Unless I attended an off show, I’m puzzled with the reputation they retain.

Describing themselves as ‘contemporary’ and ‘inspired by the dark and daring underworld’, there was a very loose structure to how each act goes deeper into the heart of hell. With an occasional moment of light, the Black Cat certainly weren’t lying in that every act makes you feel like you’re in hell.

Led by the dreary Dusty Limits, who’s presence, humour and engagement with his audience is
incredibly lazy. You can tell what his next joke will be, he acts like he’s drunk when he doesn’t
seem it at all, and there was never consistent rip-roaring laughter for his punchlines – the MC and
leader of a cabaret. It was actually annoying to see him and another mediocre troupe, three
women by the name of Cabaret Rouge, gain so much stage time when there were more talented acts.

There were some highlights. Silvia Pavone and her LED hula hoops were hypnotising to watch. Whilst the tricks were probably quite simple, the spectacle was nonetheless beguiling. I remember seeing her at The Great Gatsby immersive production earlier in the year, and people kept screaming, ‘We love you Silvia!’, proving her status on the cabaret circuit in London.

Whilst the majority of the singing in the show was poor from Lili La Scala along with Dusty
Limits, a glimmer of humour came from Laurie Hagan. Dragging an audience member up on stage
and asking him to ‘get down bitch’ and ‘bend like you’re a Swedish table’, it takes skill to perform a song about people looking at her and wanting attention, but singing it with charisma and little to no ego.

The main issue with the Black Cat Cabaret is that none of the characters are actually that likeable.
Granted that the theming and setting is quite dark, this doesn’t mean that the characters shouldn’t
appear to have any charisma with their audience. I’d hope that I attended an off night from the
cabaret, and perhaps if I ever attended again that a new line up of acts would make an appearance. However, a shake up in theming and structure is needed to gain back any new interest I have in going back and seeing the Black Cat Cabaret.

Reviewed by Barry O’Reilly