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Cabaret Review: Suburban Horror Show (LOST Theatre, London)

suburban horror show Kate Butch. Blanche Dubois in 'Suburban Horror Show'. Photograph: Courtesy of Suburbaret.
suburban horror show

Blanche DuBois in ‘Suburban Horror Show’. Photograph: Courtesy of James T Miller.

In A Nutshell

Like “the truth”, Suburbaret’s Suburban Horror Show is pretty “out there”, with acts so off the charts it’s spooky. Only the brave survived.

Overview

Suburbaret, pioneers of suburban themed cabaret, present a demonic 13 acts to entertain hardy and thrill seeking cabaret creeps keen to keep the spirit of Halloween going through All Saint’s Day.

Concept

Producer Gareth Edward has been putting on Suburbaret – a showcase of suburban themed cabaret – for nearly a year now. Indulging in seasonal japery, Suburbaret take their theming up a notch for Halloween with Suburban Horror Show. Much like Zone 3 being on the fringes of London, Suburbaret is pretty much on the fringes of cabaret. Don’t expect Jane McDonald in a sexy witch’s outfit here, but expect a wide variety of cabaret acts from stand-up comedy, to drag, to performance art, that don’t just push the boundaries, but exhumes them and robs it of its funeral jewelry.

Suburban horror show

Do you really want to hurt me? Boy George in ‘Suburban Horror Show’. Photograph: Courtesy of James T Miller.

But whilst Edward has an eye for the ground-breaking, they also have an eye for talent and quality. Even though many of the acts featured in Suburban Horror Show were outrightly bizarre, none of them were bad or ill-conceived. Even if you’re not sure what to think of the performers and their art, you can’t deny that it wasn’t executed with talent and zeal. Enthusiasm counts for nothing here, and its the goods that matter. Even so, Edward puts together a bill of emerging performers against a handful of established ones, so there was a nice balance of proven quality against the experimental and junior.

The only problems with Suburban Horror Show are, firstly, the venue. As much as the LOST Theatre is as superb venue for it being a surprisingly generous and adaptable space for theatre, it’s a difficult auditorium to fill with the requisite casual atmosphere that you’d usually find in a cabaret bar or pub: the space is comparatively cavernous and the arrangement quite formal. It’s great for giving some acts space to create, like the smoke and laser spectacular that was Orlando, or the high-octane and tilted ballet that was Ragina La Lumpi, but its at the expense of a buzzing, noisy, and well-oiled crowd, meaning the audience are a little less responsive than usual. Secondly, this is not entry-level cabaret by any means, and some of the acts are just pretty insane. There was empathy for the unwitting “volunteer” that Baby Lame dragged on stage and was promptly gaffa-taped to a chair and essentially molested. Whilst it was a good laugh for everyone else, the poor punter genuinely didn’t know what hit them and looked noticeably uncomfortable with the entire ordeal, quite unprepared for such an intense level of bat-shit crazy. With other acts it’s difficult to know how to respond as they’re genuinely things you’d never have considered witnessing before, not just pushing you out your cabaret comfort zone, but tossing you over the cliff of it. So unless you go with a very open mind and brace yourself for the unknown, you’ll find yourself quite lost.

For a showcase that teeters on the blade of the cutting-edge, you couldn’t get more brilliant and outlandish than Suburban Horror Show. If the rest of Suburbaret’s upcoming programme (a “World Tour of Zone 3”) is anything like Suburban Horror Show, then it will be the place to catch top-quality ground-breaking cabaret of limitless imagination.

Suburban Horror show

Once more, with polythe-ling. Nathan Dean Williams in ‘Suburban Horror Show’. Photograph: Courtesy of James T Miller.

Performances

With a full 13 acts in Suburban Horror Show (well, 12 plus Timberlina hosting) it’s difficult to say something about everyone without turning this review into a cabaret roll call. Highlights included Orlando’s strange and literally dazzling song performance, with UV lights, lasers, and a lot of smoke. Aurally, it’s a strange and eerie piece that wanders strangely through some dark text, but when combined with the technology it really knocks you into the netherworld. Nathan Dean William’s clever and twisted narrative poetry also raised off-kilter titters, with his piece about pushing the limits of sexual endeavour in a grim way. Then there was Claire Benjamin performing as Meg la Manic with her bouncy and playful dress and silver make-up. This weird and wandering performance is pricked with some unexpectedly deep soul-bearing, song, innovative fashion, and showers of plastic soldiers. Topping off Suburban Horror Show was the totally unhinged Baby Lame who roared onto the stage with twisted debauchery like no other, with an energy and performance which really can only be described as indescribable: really needing to be seen to be believed!

Timberlina, compering the evening, completed Suburban Horror Show with their trademark fun and games with the audience, as well as doing as good a job as they could to whip up the atmosphere in the LOST Theatre whilst being on their usual worst behavior and on top tipsy form.

Verdict

A monsterous mash of cabaret, Suburban Horror Show’s talent are acts pedestrian performers should be very afraid of.

Suburban Horror Show took place at the LOST Theatre, London SW8 2JU, on 1 November 2015. For more information about Suburbaret, visit www.suburbaret.co.uk.