Illustration by Natasha Thompson
This is an odd place for a cabaret, I thought as we cleared the little church yard only to find a gritty-looking chain pub and a wall of glass office buildings. The map on the phone screen yielded little clue as to where this Bath House place was, but a second look around revealed a tiny kiosk covered in colourful tiles. Free-standing between the tall corporate buildings, it looked like a doorway to the past, originally built as a Victorian Turkish Bathhouse. The building didn’t seem big enough to house a café, let alone a vaudeville troupe, but stepping inside it became clear the entertainment happened under ground, and the topside was just a teaser. The tiles continued down the stairs and into the lavish dining room, with marbled mosaic floors, elaborately decorated columns and candles everywhere. The original features were interspersed with modern artwork of elegant skeletons, human and animals, with an overall effect of elegant decadence. As the Boom Boom Club cabaret stars jostled behind the curtain, diners finished up their sticky puddings, shrugging off concerns of work in the morning and ordered a fresh round of cocktails for the main event.
Dusty Limits by James Ormiston
Our host for the evening was the dazzling Dusty Limits, who immediately had us wrapped around his finger. Shimmying onto the little stage with his bleached-blond hair and dark eye make-up, he assured any animal rights supporters in the audience that the neck fur he kept stroking was indeed real. The performer, a leading figure in London’s neo-cabaret scene, entertained us with his at times macabre and downright filthy wit, not afraid of stealing drinks from the audience during his musical numbers. While hosts chatting during set changes are often just a filler in anticipation of the real entertainment, Dusty Limits is a true attraction in his own right. It’s not for delicate souls, as the words ‘Jesus’ and ‘dogging’ were indeed heard in the same sentence. This sort of thing can easily sound crude coming from a mediocre comedian, but I dare say Dusty Limits has enough charm and talent to get away with saying pretty much anything.
While the host is a staple of the Boom Boom Club every Thursday, the rest of the ensemble may vary slightly between each time. Last Thursday the curator of the burlesque performance, Vicky Butterfly, was absent, but instead we had Miss Miranda and Roxy Velvet charming us with their routines. In true burlesque tradition their clothes came off, but the added theatrical flair made the acts stand out. Especially Roxy Velvet put on a literally flaming show, with burning swords and a sparking gun – ahead of which the front row was prompted by Dusty Limits to ‘please lean back’. The burlesque starlet also wowed the audience by stubbing out a cigarette on her tongue – I have no idea whether this was a trick, but if it was, it is possible she’d been taught by magician duo Barry and Stuart. Entering the stage in unassuming, geeky suits, the well-tuned act started slow with a theatre-inspired magic act before making the crowd squeal and squirm in their seats as they added a touch of the macabre. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but the lady in the audience did confirm the nail was real.
Boom Boom Club ensemble courtesy of The Bath House
The one element of the night which neglected to completely enthral the audience was possibly Adam One Man Destruction, a highly skilled one-man-band act. The artist played three instruments and sang at the same time – maybe it was Adam’s fault for making it look so easy, my friend pointed out. After all, our own co-ordination skills proved miserable as we failed at the old kids’ trick of tapping our thighs with one hand while stroking with the other at the same time.
Enthralled, however, is probably the right word to describe the effect Kaiki Hula had on her audience. Practically falling onto the stage in her ‘Madonna in the bad-ass years’ outfit, smeared make-up and empty booze bottle, she proceeded to literally rock her hula hoops along to Run D.M.C.’s jumping track ‘It’s tricky’. One hoop at first, adding more and more until the tiny girl, still in her boozy bad girl character, had at least seven hoops twirling in perfect control all across her body – not counting the two around her wrists. I have seen acrobat performers at cabarets before, but trust me when I say Kaiki Hula wipes the floor with them. For five minutes last Thursday, a hula hooper was the coolest girl in the world, twirling to abandon in front of a mesmerised audience with their jaws on the floor.
Adam One Man Destruction, Barry and Stuart, Boom Boom Club, Burlesque, Cabaret, Dusty Limits, James Ormiston, Kaiki Hula, Madonna, Magic, Miss Miranda, Natasha Thompson, Roxy Velvet, Run D.M.C., The Bath House
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