Joan by Lucy J Skilbeck at the Ovalhouse

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I doubt you have seen a depiction of Joan of Arc before like the one currently performed at the Ovalhouse by Lucy Jane Parkinson, aka professional drag king LoUis CYfer. She appears in solo show Joan, a Milk Presents production, written and directed by Lucy J Skilbeck.

The Ovalhouse is set out in the round, with cabaret seating in the front rows. This gives ample opportunity for Joan to interact with the audience, which she does to great effect. At first, she is disarming when she asks for somebody’s seat and makes them move, to make way for Catherine (Saint Catherine, who appeared to Joan in visions and whose guiding voice Joan heard throughout her life). Then she is funny as she asks to borrow somebody’s phone to phone Catherine to find out where she is. Later still, she asks more and more of us – one man is asked to walk like a man so she can copy his walk; another has to act like a potential mate when her father is trying to marry her off. The whole audience has to get involved in a battle scene: Joan quite naturally gets a crowd of people bellowing like horses, shooting crossbows, stamping their feet, one woman even has to be a canon exploding. I think my section really wowed her with our men’s chanting choir.

The play deals with the question of identity, and gender identity at that, with Joan playing not only the famous ‘Maid of Orléans’ herself, but also three of the men in her life. The first is her father; we see her quick transformation before our very eyes, using one of four full-length mirrors at each corner of the performance space to don cap, jacket and beard. The next male she becomes is the Dauphin Charles, who Joan has gone to meet ready with her big speech. This is the funniest moment in the play, as a discoball appears overhead, and Parkinson as the moustachioed Dauphin delivers a hilarious song whilst gyrating in golden jacket and shorts. ‘Je m’appelle Charles’, he sings, and then gives Joan an army.

This would not work without Parkinson. She is a natural and engaging performer who you can’t take your eyes off. One minute she is describing Catherine’s voice, ‘as if sunrise had a sound’, and Joan’s face lifts up as if in a trance; the next she is talking conspiratorially with the audience whilst fixing a fake beard onto her face, and turning her bra into a bulge in her shorts. At one point I could see that, as she was delivering one of her rousing speeches about not fitting in, an audience member near to her was visibly nodding, identifying with her words.

Joan is an entertaining, accessible way to meet France’s famous female warrior which had me wiping my eyes from both laughter and tears. But more than that, Lucy Jane Parkinson and the skilful writing by Lucy J Skilbeck turns Joan’s herstory into a moving drama of a brave woman whose cross dressing (probably for quite practical reasons) leads her to be burnt at the stake for heresy. For both queer and heterosexual audiences, this is a must-see.

WIGS 4/5

By Hatty Uwanogho

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Seven Sins by Showtime Cabaret at Café de Paris

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On Friday night we were invited into the dark and opulent depths of Café de Paris for their new regular Friday night show ‘Seven Sins’. This was our first trip to the famed Café – “the glittering jewel of London” – and it will certainly not be our last.

Lead to our table by a lovely mermaid we were informed that we would be witnessing an extremely sexy and dangerous new show! There were rules we had to abide by, but these did not extend to dancing on the tables and hanging from the chandelier. The dinner was exquisite and were fortunate for the very attentive and kind Marta, who served us and answered all our questions throughout the evening.

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And so on to the show. Our MC for the night, Reuben Kaye, was tremendous, describing himself as a homosexual T-Rex. He strutted around the crowd with the perfect mix of character, sass, humour and personality that had the audience in the palm of his hand. He was probably the finest MC we have ever witnessed singing a collection of songs in opera-gothic style and having audience members in fits of laughter. Quick witted and sharp he had the perfect reason for not going up to the birthday tables tucked away under the balcony “I’m like Simba – I can only go where the light touches”.

The first act was about envy. It was a brilliant male acrobatic ring performance. The most impressive moment of which was when he hung from the ring using only his shoulder blades. This was followed by gluttony, a rather unsettling knife-swallowing act, made more gruesome by the sheer speed the little red riding hood performer forced spoons, forks and swords down her throat. Then we came to greed, performed by Chrisalys. He was a rather frightening pig in pinstripe suit who trotted about the stage throwing cash in the air and blowing fire into the sky – an explosive ending to the second half.

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The second half started with more more gags from Reuben before it was straight in with lust as another young sinner performed some incredible feats of acrobatic strength made even more impressive when his shoes were lit on fire. This was followed by sloth – a brilliant burlesque piece performed by the sexy and salacious Bettsie Bon Bon. From here it was wrath with a tiny oriental girl swinging around the stage by her hair followed by a big ensemble song. Audience members had been picked on earlier in the night, with jokes flying at them from the fork-tongued Reuben Kaye, however what was about to happen to the Ginger Wig was a little unexpected. The ensemble number ended in front of our table, when suddenly every performer turned to look directly at us. Arms, hands and toes, unbuttoned our shirt in a flash, as we were licked from navel to cheek and fed strawberries from the mouth of Little Red Riding Hood – just your regular Friday night as the Ginger Wig!

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Finally the show ended with pride, a spectacular hula hoop performance celebrating more than the sin with the up-coming parade in London. Fire was thrown into the mix before someone in metal lingerie appeared with a circular saw creating a star-scape of sparks above the performer.

Everything had a touch of the Devil about it, from the performance to the venue to the night itself. We almost felt if employed by the Café, the only way to leave is in a coffin – just the kind of macabre feeling you want from a cabaret show. Brilliant all round service and entertainment from this long standing bastion of cabaret in London. Completely corrupted, we left the chamber of this glittering jewel, electrified with energy and slunk out into the London night, slipped in sin.

Highlight of the Show – Reuben Kaye – the most devilish host.

WIGS 5/5

Brighton Wig Awards

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This was our first year attending the Brighton Fringe and Festival and will certainly not be our last, and was an extremely fun and theatrically powerful bank holiday weekend on the south coast. So for the first time ever, it is time to announce the Brighton Wig Awards!

Awards for the Brighton Wig Awards 2016 include ‘The Venue Award’, ‘The Free Theatre Award’ and, of course, the round up of our favourite shows at the Brighton Festival and Fringe culminating in the award of the ‘Brighton Wig’ to our favourite show. Judging this year has been carried out by The Ginger Wig and the Ginger Viking!

The Venue Award

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Close runners-up in this category include the charming Bosco Spiegeltent and the perfectly situated Republic, but the winner of the 2016 Brighton Wig Venue Award goes to the groovy Distrikt at The Spire Arts Centre. This converted church has some beautiful stained glass windows and now serves drinks and has great art and theatre like No Offence’s ‘Torn Apart (Dissolution)‘.

The Free Theatre Award

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We saw some great free theatre in Brighton, including the participatory ‘Masquerade‘ by yello brick theatre company and the ridiculous ‘Brickhead‘. But there can only be one winner. This year, our free theatre award goes to the hilarious LoveHardComedy, giving us some of the most bizarre gags within a well constructed horror-themed comedy show. Well done to the LoveHard lads. Read our review here.

The Runners-Up to the Brighton Wig Award

5. LoveHard – They won our Free Theatre Award for good reason!

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4. Hotel Black Cat – sexy, sinister and scintillating cabaret and burlesque from the Black Cat Cabaret team. Read our review here.

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3. The Thermos Museum – brilliantly weird fringe comedy. Unique in its hilarity and strangeness. Read our review here.

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2. The Bookbinder – a heartwarming charmer for all to enjoy from Kiwi theatre company Trick of the Light. Read our review here.

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And the Brighton Ginger Wig Award of 2016….

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How could we look anywhere else than Hydrocracker Theatre and Blast Theory’s exceptional ‘Operation Black Antler’, taking us deep into the world of undercover surveillance, through one of the best constructed immersive theatre game experiences we have ever been lucky enough to enjoy. The Ginger Wig and Strolling Man will have our eyes on these two companies for their future work. They have set a very high standard! Check out our review of ‘Operation Black Antler’ here.

That concludes our 2016 Brighton Wig Award. Look out for the upcoming Edinburgh Wig Award and the big one, our first ever Ginger Wig Award from a whole year of theatre everywhere!

Hotel Black Cat by The Black Cat Cabaret at Republic

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Situated by the lovely Brighton beach, Republic was the perfect venue for a cabaret show. We could feel the cabaret vibes from the moment we walked in!

Greeted by Dusty Limits, the Host of the night, the audience was welcomed into the formerly grand Hotel Black Cat. Throughout the evening we were introduced to the various characters, or creatures, that worked at or visited the hotel. The performance combined various cabaret and circus acts; dancing, juggling, burlesque, fire artists, hoop aerialists, a singing string quartet – that together created a magical and mesmerising spectacle that had a very eerie quality to it.

The events of the performance were threaded together by Dusty Limits, but the plot felt clunky and slightly unclear. Perhaps the plot was not the main focus of this performance, but rather the audience’s immersion into the sinister and decadent realm of the Hotel. Finishing the show with their own version of the Eagle’s hit song Hotel California, we were left with the phrase “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave” which aptly summarised the atmosphere of this mad and dark show. All in all, Hotel Black Cat was a highly entertaining and sexy circus experience.

Highlight of the show – an enchanting and sexy burlesque act in an glowing cape, gorgeously performed by Vicky Butterfly.

WIGS 4/5

The Ginger Viking

Saucy Jack & The Space Vixens by Mann, Fidler, Croose and Forrest at The Kings Head Theatre

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As if it’s taken us this long to get down to the Kings Head Theatre in Islington. This pub theatre had all the right vibes and definitely needs support considering it is one of the very few pub theatres providing equity minimum contracts to its artists and creatives. It receives no money from the Arts Council!

And what a first trip it was to see ‘Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens’ on its 20th anniversary. There were people singing along from the very first song. By the end of the show we were too. This is a cult musical if ever there was one. Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens started life when producers Michael Fidler and Charlotte Mann had a pre-booked Edinburgh 1995 slot, but no play. A 30-word outline led to the creation of one of the smallest hit musicals that has since been performed on three continents.

Set on the edge of space in a dive bar, inter-galactic characters are getting killed off, despite the presence of the galaxy’s famed police stars, the Space Vixens. Who is killing everyone off? Could it be Sammy Sax, Mitch Maypole or the owner of the establishment, Saucy Jack?

These brand new Vixens – a bizarre host of characters – will create a whole new generation of fans with brilliant renditions of “Glitter Boots Saved My Life’ and ‘All I Need is Disco’, the Vixens’ catchy and naughty tunes. Our favourite character was Dr Von Whackoff played by the brilliantly deranged Tom Whalley. However, the entire cast must be celebrated for bringing so much life to this cult musical.

Camp, delightful fun from start to finish with an underlying message to be yourself and to keep dancing. The perfect mix of theatre, disco and a night out. Do not miss this gem at the Kings Head Theatre.

Highlight of the Show – ending in disco style with, with the entire cast and audience dancing to ABBA and Michael Jackson.

WIGS 4/5

Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens is playing at the Kings Head Theatre in Islington every day except Monday until the 21st May.

The Ginger Wig

 

Sister Mary’s Big Sunday Show featuring Norvil the Magician, Emma Ralston and Two Tongue Theatre at The Cockpit

This was a variety show like no other. Led by the hilarious Sister Mary (Tim McArthur), we were presented with three different acts, in between which we were entertained with songs and jokes from Sister Mary. We were invited by Two Tongue Theatre so they will be our main focus…

This French duo have created a short comical piece, ‘Twisted and Tongue Tied’ that they are taking to the Brighton and Paris Fringe. Entering dressed as men, they danced together and made lewd jokes and gestures before undressing to admit they were women exploring the nature of the gender pay gap in Hollywood. This was followed by a protest. Although containing a few funny moments, this piece seemed to fall between two stools, a protest and a performance. It didn’t really work for us and fell a bit flat. Neither did the bilingual performance seem to add anything dramatically.

Simple things like not being in time together when dancing brought this piece down further. Aside from this however, they showed great energy throughout the performance. However, ending the show tying each other to chairs and gagging themselves, was just outright protest. They might as well take it to the streets. In a performance space they couldn’t even take a bow and had to be released by Sister Mary. Maybe a bit more thought is needed about what they are trying to do, because for us, it didn’t work as entertainment and it didn’t work as protest.

As for the other acts, Norvil the Magician was great fun, with a collection of rare songs, and impressive magic tricks to go with his silky magician’s voice. The best trick for us was when he ripped up a newspaper several times to then pull it part one last time and it reappeared whole. He also swallowed a needle and had an audience member retrieve it.

Emma Ralston, a musical theatre performer sung three songs, one of which was a hysterical new piece by Rhiannon Hopkins who accompanied her on the piano. Emma performed with impressive vocal control and a natural element of theatricality, keeping us glued to her every note.

Highlight of the show – Sister Mary – definitely a good reason to head out to the Cockpit Theatre on a Sunday! Full of gags and entertainment.

WIGS (for Two Tongue Theatre) 2/5

Tickets Under £15

Continuing our latest feature, we pick out several current and upcoming shows that we have our eye on in London that you can see for under £15!

Now

Weald by Daniel Foxsmith at the Finborough Theatre until 27th March. Quote special code TWELVE for £12 tickets when booking.

http://www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk/productions/2015/weald.php

Richard Marsh Mystery Show AKA ‘Rumpus’ by Richard Marsh at the VAULT Festival – For one night only on 28th February for £10.

http://www.vaultfestival.com/event/richard-marsh-mystery-show/

Coming Soon

Good King Richard by Golden Age Theatre Company at the Drayton Arms Theatre from 1st – 12th March. £14 (£10 concessions)

http://www.goldenagetheatre.com/

The Seagull, or Why Masha Always Wears Black by ThisIsNotATest at the Camden People’s Theatre on 11th March. £12 (£10 concessions).

https://www.cptheatre.co.uk/production/the-seagull-or-why-masha-always-wears-black/

Something Something Lazarus by Broken Cabaret at the Kings Head Theatre. £10 for the opening three shows 8th – 10th March.

https://kingsheadtheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/873542397/events

Anna Karenina by Arrow and Traps Theatre Company at the Jack Studio Theatre from 15th March – 2nd April. £14 (£12 concessions).

http://www.brockleyjack.co.uk/portfolio/anna-karenina/

Enjoy…

The Iraq Pack – Live from Das Vegas at the Voodoo Rooms

Featuring the hits of Dean Stalin, Osama Bin Crosby, Frank Sanazi and Saddami Davis Jnr. this was a humorous and no blows barred kinda cabaret show.

Performed in the gorgeous main space in the Voodoo Rooms, this venue is built for the high class elegance of cabaret, showstoppers and entertainment. The Iraq Pack served up many an incorrect joke to keep the audience giggling, and most of the songs brought the same responses, although some seemed slightly less entertaining than others.

Frank Sanazi was the real host of the show. Although Dean Stalin opened, it was Frank who lead the show, delivered the most jokes and generally organised the other dictators following their world tour of destruction to perform this show. He was a true treat of political incorrectness.

Good comic fare and good singing from these chaps, not for the faint-hearted but definitely good value for those interested.

Highlight of the show – Frank Sanazi’s rendition of ‘Third Reich’ to the tune of ‘That’s Life’.

3/5 WIGS