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Bernie Dieter’s Club Kabarett at Underbelly Boulevard Soho

The Boulevard has had a bit of a chequered history since it opened in 2019. Opened by Fawn James, the grand-daughter of Paul ‘King of Soho’ Raymond and situated just a few yards away from his famous (some would say infamous) Raymond’s Revue Bar in Walkers Court, it was to be a state-of-the-art theatre that could go from productions in the round, to a cabaret venue and various other configurations at the push of a button – even some of the seats were on a revolve. The Artistic Director was Rachel Edwards (Tooting Arts Club) and the theatre opened with a flourish with the highly regarded, award-winning Ghost Quartet in November 2019. Alas for whatever reason, the theatre didn’t survive Covid and was closed until recently when for a short time it had a life as a jazz club run as the Soho Live Music Club. Now it has reopened as the permanent home of the world-famous Underbelly which in the past has been housed in a giant upside-down, purple cow in locations on the South Bank, Earl’s Court etc.

Bernie Dieter - Credit Craig Sugden.
Bernie Dieter – Credit Craig Sugden.

The first show in their new home is Bernie Dieter’s Club Kabarett. Dieter is the show’s Master Of Ceremonies – although in her various S&M style costumes, she’s certainly the mistress of her domain. She could be the love child of Tom Waits and Australian cabaret star Meow Meow with a touch of Marlene Dietrich and Lady Gaga thrown in. She’s a commanding performer with a loud, powerful voice backed by a loud and powerful three-piece band. She opens with a risqué song that gets the audience going and four unsuspecting male members of the audience are very much involved!

For the rest of the evening, we get a variety of acts, the sort you see at this kind of modern cabaret – as Dieter says they’re “punks, freaks and weirdos”. First up is a scantily dressed, heavily tattooed, long-haired, high-heeled pole dancer – the twist being that it’s a man! He’s followed by a fire eater, a trapeze artist who does most of his act standing on his head. Then there are two girls who are mirror images of each other, spinning acrobatically in the air on a ring at times holding on to each other just by their feet! The fire eater then returns dressed in a tutu and ballet pointe shoes and is hoisted up into the air just by her hair where she spins, dances and even strips off (possibly in an homage to the venue’s roots) before descending to the ground to the relief of the audience who have been holding their collective breath. Next is a man in drag who swallows three razor blades and a piece of thread and then regurgitates the blades all connected to the thread – not something for the faint-hearted. The final act is another death-defying display of aerial agility this time using just two pieces of long cloth, the climax of which is a drop to the stage at speed stopping inches above the ground – another catch-your-breath moment. All the acts are excellent and they demonstrate night after night how supple and elastic the human body can be – they’re amazing contortionists who somehow manage to put their bodies through these routines night after night.

During the evening, the performers are backed either by the band or Dieter who sings songs from the likes of Prince and Kurt Weill amongst others as well as having some solo spots and a number of costume changes. She’s a superb MC but it’s a shame she doesn’t name the artists individually and they remain anonymous.

The Boulevard is the perfect venue for this kind of cabaret as it’s in the round so everyone gets a great view of the action. Whilst it may not quite have the decadence of Berlin cabarets between the wars, if you want a great night out with some friends and a drink or two, this could be the show for you – although you may want to avoid the front couple of rows if you want to escape being ensnared in Bernie Dieter’s fishnet tights!

4 stars

Review by Alan Fitter

The darkest, funniest and most debauched Kabarett Klub west of Berlin.

The Queen of Weimar punk Bernie Dieter finally returns to the UK after sell-out shows around the world with her luxuriously gin soaked, Weimar-punk evening of dangerously funny kabarett, breathtaking circus and fire-breathing sideshow at its most inappropriate, provocative and hilarious best.

Join über-award-winning kabarett superstar Bernie Dieter, her live band and travelling family of misfits, miscreants and fantastic freaks for an unmissable night. Soundtracked by riotous, witty, and hilariously defiant original songs.

Bernie Dieter has cemented herself as one of the standout cabaret artist of her generation over the past few years with sell out seasons of her show on London’s West End, Singapore and all over Australia.

25th Oct – 6th Jan 2024
https://underbellyboulevard.com/

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