Well, it’s that time of year again. In between the end of summer and the Christmas season comes that by-now annual British TV tradition: The X-Factor. Yes, the lives of the viewing public are once again to be given over to Simon Cowell’s monstrous machine as a weird and wonderful assortment of raw talent and deluded oddities parade across our TV screens as they ‘follow their dream’ to become a star. The X-Factor is more than just a TV show now – it is even serving as inspiration for a new stage musical, I Can’t Sing, which is set to hit the West End next year, which is why comments that Gary Barlow’s has made in the past seem rather ironic. The X-Factor is no stranger to controversy, in fact it openly courts it. Take That singer/X-Factor judge Gary Barlow has stirred up a little controversy of his own since he joined the judging panel by calling some of the auditioning acts too ‘cabaret’. Using the term of cabaret in a derogatory manner naturally upset the performers of the cabaret world and they struck back at Barlow and the show last year through song, the video of which was posted on YouTube. The humorous satire saw a member of one of the cabaret acts report back to his fellow performers after auditioning for The X-Factor and converting them into a performance that echoes an X-Factor charity single, singing such lyrics as: ‘Cabaret, don’t give in to cabaret, don’t wear something that suggests you’re gay, you want the public to like you. Say no to cabaret, keep away from that cruise buffet. Put your feathers down and walk away – this is Gary’s decree.’
Despite their chuckle-inducing revenge, the cabaret community clearly still haven’t forgotten as several jibes aimed at Barlow and the show can be found within news of the upcoming London Cabaret Festival 2013. His remarks are credited as the ‘catalyst’ for the creation of their own festival, entirely self-organised by members of the collective London cabaret scene – or ‘bum face cringe failures’ as their YouTube song describes. The festival is promoted as a place where ‘the weird and wonderful, elegant and profane, multi-faceted worlds that make up the universe of Cabaret collide and present a united front to showcase their work.’ It is quite simply, a celebration of all that is cabaret. A wide and varied selection of cabaret acts will come together throughout the month of October in venues across London for performances of ‘high tease’, ‘old-fashioned variety’ and ‘gut-wrenching sideshow’ – and that’s just a small taster of what’s in store for audiences (a list of all the cabaret shows on in London as part of the festival can be found on its website: www.londoncabaretfestival.com). The festival is supported by Finger In The Pie Cabaret, an ensemble theatre company and producer of cabaret.
They themselves admit that cabaret festivals in London are not a new occurrence, the London Cabaret Festival 2013 is actually the sixth such event to take place this year. The difference though, is that this is the only one to be organised by the performers themselves and all the monies raised is set to go towards funding essential festival expenses.
The festival was launched in style this week when a group of cabaret acts performed in a fundraiser event at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club on Tuesday 3rd September 2013. Hosted by the glamorous songbird Lili La Scala and the juggling genius Mat Ricardo, the night provided a fantastic window into the world of cabaret and gave a sneak glimpse at what the festival and its acts have to offer. There were some great performances on the night, including alt-drag super troupe The Lipsinkers, fresh from their well-received run at the Edinburgh Fringe, an original equestrian burlesque act from Sophia St Villier and an appearance from Des O’Connor with his song about octogenarian sex. Another highlight of the night was cabaret triple threat act Abigail Collins with her latest character Peggy Sued who, dressed as a shower curtain impaled with fake knives, was a ‘walking incarnation of the famous Psycho shower scene’. She sang a rendition of ‘Fever’ while doing the splits atop the shoulders of two audience members. Entertainment at its best. International sensation ‘the Boy With Tape On His Face’ closed the event with his own unique and fabulously silly performance which included two oven mitts singing ‘Endless Love’ to each other.
Cabaret is an important aspect of the London theatre scene and is full to the brim with highly talented and imaginative performers who can entertain in a way like no other. Cabaret should not be a derogatory term and it thoroughly deserves to be celebrated for its many wonderful qualities, which is just what the London Cabaret Festival 2013 is doing. Join them.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Saturday 7th September 2013