Underbelly Festival: Life’s No Drag With Cabaret, Burlesque And Nocturnal Delights

Underbelly Festival is up and running on the South Bank and as always will feature a delicious and devilish feast of cabaret, burlesque, drag and every dastardly combination thereof.

Highlights include a UK premiere and longest ever London run for the original cocks of the walk, the cult boylesque cirque-cabaret act known as Briefs, who will unveil their first new show in four years Close Encounters following their internationally acclaimed Second Coming.

Cabaret highlights include Friday Night Filth (2 & 30 June) – the infamously anarchic mixed bill featuring Des O’Connor Phil Nichol, Aurora Galore, Mike Wilmot, Card Ninja, David Morgan, Carey Marx and Scott Capurro across two shows with more to be confirmed.

In July, 2016 Musical Comedy Award winners, Four Femmes on the Thames and Friends (13 July). The Four Femmes bring you and hour of high-energy, hilarious comedy songs featuring live music and a selection of fantastic comedy guests.

Later that month, Cabaret feministe fatale Anya Anastasia (26 & 28 July) mixes biting wit with kick-ass Shirley Bassey-esque music and an all-female band for a beautiful and chaotic cabaret experience: Rogue Romantic.

For a twist on the genre, Glam Rock cabarets Starman (7-9 June) and Ashes to Ashes (2 September) allow acclaimed performer Sven Ratzke provide a gloriously fitting tribute to departed legend and his hero David Bowie, mixing musical virtuosity with unfettered glamour and unapologetic weirdness.

The final month of Underbelly Festival is also rammed with cabaret thrills in Mother’s Ruin (30 August) – a cabaret about gin featuring two rising stars, Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood, and songs by Amy Winehouse, Nina Simone, The Pretenders and more. The following week sees Christine Bovill’s unique tribute to Edith Piaf: PIAF (7 & 14 September) take residence before cabaret legend Dusty Limits presents Mandrogyny (20 Sep) which mixes his usual distinctive vocals, atmospheric music, caustic humour and ruminations on all things from gender to mental health.

Underbelly Festival will also champion the very best in British and international Burlesque, with House of Burlesque (selected dates 1 June – 15 Sep) seeing Queen of provocateurs, Tempest Rose and her entourage meshing the traditions of high-end glamour, joyful satire and subversive cabaret with stunning technology and a new vision, confronting today’s big issues and proving this mesmerising art form is more relevant than ever.

Another fast becoming a favourite on the South Bank is Between the Sheets with Miss Polly Rae (selected dates, 15 June – 29 Sep) in which the burlesque legend mixes her craft with an all-star cast of comedy, cabaret, circus, and music in a sizzling exploration of the sexy side of life

July’s burlesque includes Stars & Strippers (6 July & 6 September) which brings the Folly Mixtures back to the South Bank for their spectacular All American burlesque revue, and Best of Burlesque (21-22 July) sees the cream of the crop strut their stuff.

August and September introduce some excitingly fresh burlesque blood to the Spiegeltent in the form of Le Bouge Neon (2 August & 21 September) which features burlesque royalty such as Miss Fallon Dee (Moulin Rouge, Paris), Kitty Bang Bang (The world famous Whisky-Drinking Fire breather) and Miss Betsy Rose (Voted Britain’s No1 Burlesque Act and 9th in the world!) – whose acts include more crystals, fire, feathers and tassels than you’ll ever find in the burlesque capitals of Paris, Vegas and Berlin.

In Gin House Burlesque: The Roaring Twenties Revue (23 August & 27 September) legends of the genre Miss Betsy Rose, Jolie Papillon and Missy Fatale join forces to blend the opulent energy of New Orleans with the gloriously debauched edge of London town in a stunning circus-cabaret-comedy spectacular.

Drag in all its glitzy glory is also a cornerstone of Underbelly Festival’s offering with this year’s programming containing more Queens than the world chess championships.

In her latest outing, Margaret Thatcher: Queen of Gameshows (28 June – 2 July) the iron lady’s unlikely alter-ego – a drag queen denizen of LGBTQI rights – turns gameshow host in this riotously interactive feast of comedy, cabaret and games. Next door in the Spiegeltent, Trevor Ashley makes a triumphant return with his one-of-a-kind cabaret-cum-musical theatre tribute to the legendary Liza Minelli, Liza’s Back (is broken) (27 June – 2 July).

Classic German cabaret also proves a strong influence on this year’s festival, with Joe Black: Meet me at the Eldorado (TONIGHT 31 May) turning the Spiegeltent into the infamous 1920s Weimar Berlin cabaret club of the same name. Hans: Mein Camp (25 July) is also a Weimar-style cabaret bonanza described as a ‘Kylie show on a Dannii budget’.

In August Iconic: A Brief History of Drag (8 Aug) sees West End star Ian Stroughair, the man behind the makeup of the sensational Velma Celli, take us on a passionate pilgrimage through the most iconic drag moments of film, stage and popular culture, with the help of very special guests Kerry Ellis and Jessie Wallace, before the natural sisterhood between the Spiegeltent and Ru Paul comes to fruity fruition as Courtney Act: The Girl from Oz (9-11 August) brings the star of Ru Paul’s Drag Race to the London Stage for the first time.

After that, Fantastic Beaver & Where to Find Her (22 August) brings Drag Queens of London star Miss Rosie Beaver to the Southbank for the first time for a rock-magic-mayhem cabaret extravaganza like nothing else.

Laughs abound in September as Myra Dubois: Dubois Entendre (13 Sep) promises more caustic humour from the acid-tongued South Yorkshire siren. In The A/W 2017: Xtravaganzah (26 Sep), The Virgin Mary, aka The Virgin Xtravaganzah has decided to throw caution to the wind and launch herself into a curated fantasy of fashion, art, style, and extreme celestial decadence.

For those in search of something just a little different Underbelly Festival is also proudly providing a home for the weirdest, most wonderful variety shows that combine cabaret and burlesque with circus, comedy, music, theatre and art.

Coming up this month is And The Little One Said (13-18 June) – the first solo act from circus superstar Jess Love (Black Cat, La Soiree) combines high-level skills with pathos, humour and beauty to create a vision that is at once delicately touching, visually enchanting and heart-warmingly playful. Jess Love endears the audience through dark clowning, dirty acrobatics and surreal sideshow feats, while Aurora Galore is also back and at her irrepressible, all-dancing-all-fire-breathing best in Glamorous Weirdo (14 June & 16 August).

Underbelly institution Black Cat Cabaret (selected dates 20 June – 30 September) is also back; a Parisian cirque-cabaret spectacular melding music, movement, acrobatics and theatrical wonderment to create a magical, fun and filthy experience.

Looking further ahead and Asher Treleaven (La Soirée) and Gypsy Wood (Miss Cage Dance Universe Australia) will also return as Peter & Bambi Heaven (18-19 July), Australia’s most loved up deluded dancing magicians who are back in town to create a carnival of chaos, while Dr Sketchy’s Anti-Art School (24 July, 21 Aug, 18 Sep) immerses the audience in an inimitable series of cabaret, burlesque and circus performances by allowing them to sketch the acts as they perform.

The Neon Moon Cabaret Club: Electric Rodeo Circus (16 Sep) is a brand-new cabaret theatre show mingling dazzling burlesque with demented vaudeville, sexy circus and electrifying physical performance, while Wonderland (23 June) takes a cabaret-burlesque-themed trip down the rabbit hole for a fantastical one-off variety spectacular.

As well as this cornucopia of fabulous characters, virtuoso performances, arch humour and glittering costumes, Underbelly Festival is home to some of the city’s finest outdoor bars and a buzzing festival atmosphere which will carry on all summer until 30 September.

Full list of Underbelly Festival Family Shows

www.underbellyfestival.com

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About Author /

Matthew has been writing for the past 5 years about music, sports and movies and has now finally got his chance to write about theatre. Having previously worked for the likes of Kerrang and Uncut, as well as previously having a radio show for 6 Towns, he has interviewed hundreds of bands throughout his career.

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