The Fourth Annual London Cabaret Awards limelights a genre that’s alive, kicking, and evolving.
It’s was that time of year again, on Monday 9 March 2015, where the débutantes of London’s classiest and sassiest culture scene came out to celebrate the good and the great of the the trade they pedal: cabaret. It’s been a tough year or so for cabaret too, with the disappearance of two beloved venues, The Battersea Barge and Madame JoJo’s. But still, spirits were far from dampened and the glad rags certainly not packed away, as the industry came out in fabulous defiance.
Cabaret Is Like A Box Of Chocolates
Now in its fourth year, the London Cabaret Awards shows that this is a genre that refuses to be narrowly defined by Gary Barlow. The sheers scope and variety of the acts nominated on both long and short lists shows this is a genre with ineffable dynamism. Present and accounted for was a range of acts and performers that deal in a whole host of vices, such as the dazzling, the debauched, the daring, and the downright doo-lally! There’s those who like to take their clothes off, those who like to put ladies clothes on, those who like to belt-it like Barbara (Streisand), and those who like to well and truly buck the trend.
Paul L Martin and Excess All Areas certainly proved this by putting on some brilliant acts as part of the the London Cabaret Awards ceremony itself. Burlesque babes The Folly Mixtures and Bettsie Bon Bon kicked off the first and second halves of the evening to titillating astonishment, showing that it’s not what you take off, it’s how you do it. There was also Ladies GoDiva and Desmond O’Connor who made us titter with rude lyrical genius, and there was the absolutely gob-smacking Bruce Airhead, who really burst the bubble on boredom.
Drag sensation Myra Dubois compèred the evening with glitz and scathing grit, leaving no stone unturned and no shade unthrown. This established and beloved stalwart of the drag scene absolutely outdid herself, splitting sides and hurting prides like nobody’s business. You couldn’t have asked for a better hostess, proving herself and indomitable MC.
This Isn’t Even Cabaret’s Final Form!
The quality of the acts on the shortlist for the London Cabaret Awards demonstrated the sheer strength of the scene. Among those lined-up for gongs included favourite and established acts, from Aussie male burlesque group Briefs, scary and sensational David Hoyle, the outrageous East End Cabaret, and West End superstars like Kerry Ellis and David Badella, to name a few.
There were certainly awards that were very well deserved, such as East End Cabaret going home with the award for “Best Musical Variety Act”. Dusty Limits took “Best Host” in a very tight category up against Desmond O’Connor and Joe Morose. Fascinating Aida were presented with the “Outstanding Achievement” award, recognising their long-standing and fantastic work they’ve been doing pre- and post their YouTube stardom.
The London Cabaret Awards are also dedicated to making sure that those less established acts, or those who sometimes leave the limelight to others, are recognised, too. Many may well have been unfamiliar with those nominated for “Best Newcomer” and “Unsung Hero”: won by Lilly SnatchDragon and Slim Chance respectively. But all winners and nominees in these categories will no doubt now pique the attentions of both punters and producers after having this platform at the London Cabaret Awards on their resumes.
But what was most interesting was the London Cabaret Awards’ embracing of the new and different. As well as celebrating the genre in its current form, Paul L Martin and Excess All Areas are just as dedicated to embracing the change that’s coming from within. This goes further than merely the “Best Alternative Performer” category, subsequently won by Twice Shy Theatre, beating even the unparalleled visionary that is David Hoyle. But it was its surprising choices in other more standard catergories.
The techodecllic Siro-A picked up “Best Circus/Speciality Act”, which will no doubt cause a few ripples. Even though Siro-A is a family friendly show many feel is just theatrical novelty, the London Cabaret Awards is right to recognise the Japanese group’s astonishing creativity in bringing hypnotic and jaw-dropping technology onto the scene, and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible within the genre.
Likewise, Holestar’s winning of “Best Drag Act”, sashaying two stilettos ahead of both Myra Dubois and La Voix, is potentially controversial as Holestar is a “tranny with a fanny” (i.e. a biological female). She unapologetically flies in the face of the notion that drag needs to include cross-dressing, and opens a whole load of new questions about how drag currently defines itself and how it should in the future. But for the London Cabaret Awards not recognise Holestar because of her sex is something that would certainly limit the brilliance that is London’s drag scene.
By No Means The Final Bow
It all goes to show that the London Cabaret Awards is beyond the curve rather than trying to keep up with it. As well as shouting about the best of what there is, Paul L Martin, Excess All Areas, and the London Cabaret Awards sets the pace of what cabaret is evolving into. If these are the surprises that the fourth London Cabaret Awards, then the fifth should be even more dazzling and surprising.
London Cabaret Award Winners
Best Vocal Act – Alison Jiear
Best Musical Variety Act – East End Cabaret
Best Drag Act – Holestar
Best Host – Dusty Limits
Best Burlesque Act – Miss Polly Rae
Best Circus/Speciality Act – Siro-A
Best Alternative Performer – Twice Shy Theatre
Best Newcomer – Lilly SnatchDragon
Best One-Off Production – Drag Queens of London
Best Ongoing Production – David Badella and Friends
Best Cabaret Venue – Crazy Coqs
Audience Award – Dott Cotton
Unsung Hero Award – Slim Chance
Outstanding Achievement Award – Fascinating Aida
For a full list of long and shortlisted nominees, visit www.londoncabaretawards.co.uk.
The London Cabaret Awards took place at Cafe de Paris, London, W1D 6BL, on 9 March 2015. For more information about Excess All Areas, visit http://excessallareas.co.uk.
All photos taken by the wonderfully talented Samuel Collins.