With many a Londoner and tourist having enjoyed an evening out at the original Proud near Camden Locks, it’s closure in early March left a gap in the nightlife of our great city. But fear not, Proud is back, and in rather glorious form, at a new flagship location under Waterloo Bridge: Proud Embankment – a brand spanking new venue described in the launch press release as the ‘UK’s biggest cabaret dining experience’.
The venue is certainly large and, upon entering, the red lighting and dry ice certainly evokes the atmosphere of a late-night speakeasy. As I was walked to my table for the three course dinner and entertainment, the aerial hoop that hung from above immediately made me muse on what lay ahead.
The theme of the show each Friday is ‘Lady Marmalade’, a tribute to the spiritual home of cabaret, the ‘Le Moulin Rouge’ and it’s high-kicking can-can dancers. Most of the music from the show is also featured in the Baz Luhrmann film of the same name.
Before the main show ‘kicked’ off though, Deus Ailes, a female balancing duo, popped up in various locations and arranged themselves into differing statuesque tableux as audience members sipped on their cocktails and nibbled at their starters.
The show proper was presented in two sets, both hosted by larger-than-life Chastity Belt, our hostess and MC with a penchant for swearing and belting her tits off! Her steely-voiced rendition of Nat King Cole’s ‘L-O-V-E’ was a highlight of the evening.
Chastity was one of three main ’acts’, most of whom performed at least twice throughout the evening. This was interspersed with ensemble numbers, complemented by additional dancers at the beginning and end of the evening’s two sets. Sadly, this somewhat limited menu of artistes did limit the variety of the performances on offer.
Deus Ailes particularly impressed in the second set with their romantic, lyrical routine to ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’. To see double-work like this with two females was captivating and the strength required by both really wowed: the brunette held the blond aloft for so long that time appeared to stand still.
Felicity Furore was the solo burlesque artist of the night, treating us to a pretty standard striptease routine to ‘Children of the Revolution’, featuring the Burlesque staple: the feather fan. Furore did a good enough job, but there was nothing about either of her appearances that really wowed.
In the second set we were also treated to a hoop artist, who was not featured in the programme but was called ‘Donna’ by our hostess. This was comedy gold: Donna’s clearly been round the block a few times and looked world weary and exhausted at times, panting and lying down, all of which was done to great comic effect. She worked the crowd like no other artist and as she spun four hoops on her person at once, there wasn’t one of the audience who hadn’t been won over.
The evening’s entertainment ended with a rousing version of ‘Lady Marmalade’ by Chastity Belt, joined by the full company of performers, who were then replaced with stagehands who moved the stage to make way for the dance floor where audience members can dance the night away until 5am.
All of this entertainment is, for those so inclined, accompanied by food which can be ordered from a “healthy pan-Asian supper club menu”. Myself and my companion enjoyed the food very much, which really was healthy, thoughtfully presented, and also very tasty: Tuna Takaki, Kobe Wagyu Beef and Matcha Tea Cheesecake to name just a few.
Proud Embankment is most definitely a classy establishment, with fantastic ambience, delicious pan-Asian food and tasty cocktails, but with venues like ‘The Box’ and ‘Cafe De Paris’ also hosting high end Cabaret and Burlesque with more of a twist, much of the evening’s entertainment felt a little ordinary. However, I only viewed one of three shows currently on offer, so I would urge all fans of Burlesque, and the uninitiated, to give it a go. And if you do, go all-in and dine there too.
Reviewed by Jody Tranter