Sunday, 20 June 2021

Stage: Music and comedy all summer long

Cabaret Lounge
Summer 2021 • Above the Stag, Vauxhall
For full listings, visit:

At the launch of the summer season at Above the Stag Theatre's Cabaret Lounge, attendees were treated to a delicious array of performances, a sampling of events to come over the next few months. The lounge is a glittering space (literally, glitter covers almost every surface, including the grand piano) that has a terrific sense of intimacy as the audience sits at tables with continuous service from a friendly bar staff, and the performers are close enough to almost touch, pandemic restrictions notwithstanding.

Performances at the launch represented a sampling of what's on offer, so check out the website for full details. They're listed here in the order they'll be taking over the stage...

With her powerful voice, Nicole Faraday (My Life in Song, 25th June) is adept at belting out big songs. And there's a honeyed quality that adds subtle texture at every step, especially when she delivers a number from her idol Karen Carpenter. Simply gorgeous. The launch event was hosted by the sparky, mischievous Ada Campe (Jollies, 26th June), whose fabulously funny personality is infectious. She's riotously enthusiastic, and skilfully dives into her nutty songs with an engaging cheekiness. And then there's Helen Anker (The Essence of Audrey, 27th June and 4th July), who brings Audrey Hepburn vividly to life. Her casually open-hearted storytelling is funny and riveting, as she shares anecdotes and trivia. Stories about making Roman Holiday are hilarious, and her stripped-back rendition of Moon River from Breakfast at Tiffany's is powerfully moving.

The lounge is programmed by Tim McArthur, a cabaret star in his own right, and he has a few nights of his own, taking to the stage in conversation with the likes of journalist Matt Cain (27th June) and iconic comic Helen Lederer (4th July). He's also hosting Secret Star (8th July), a wonderfully queer spin on The Masked Singer featuring West End stars in silly disguises. The engaging couple Chris Hamilton & Shimi Goodman (What a Time to Be Alive, 3rd July) are a pianist and actor-singer who delight in deconstructing pop songs into a range of random genres. And it helps that both are hugely talented, having a lot of optimistic, jaunty fun as they talk about their life together and their love of music. Sitting at a piano, Stefan Bednarczyk performs the songs of Noel Coward (10th July) with an easy authenticity, playfully getting into character to tell musical stories about unexpected romance.

Also at the piano, Ian Elmsie sings numbers from his musical Old Boyfriends (15th July), exploring deeper ideas about love. They're funny and romantic, and very involving. For a sassy change of pace Flat and the Curves (18th July) is a massively entertaining group of women who delight in performing hysterically rude songs. Their operatic ditty about porn is a deadpan delight. And their Abba-style song about how a visit to Ikea can devastate a relationship is priceless. With a mixture of performance art and old Hollywood glamour, Keith Ramsay (Eve: All About Her, 23rd July) offers fascinating, darkly meaningful music and storytelling. Haunted by the ghost of Judy Garland, he's utterly mesmerising. And finally, Rhys'Pieces (Queefy, 4th August) offers a stunningly original take on lip-synching, blurring genders as a hot muscle man dancing acrobatically in a skimpy leotard and thigh-high stilettos. His performances are full-on, seriously cool and evocative too. And his chatter in between numbers is charming.  

Meanwhile in the theatre space, CONTACT: STORIES OF DIVISION AND UNITY is a series of plays running through the summer exploring a range of buzzy topics like conversion therapy, social media shaming, first love and much more.

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