Last Friday I was witness to the inaugural performance of Eve Ferret, aka Madame Bouffant as she embarks on her now regular fortnightly residency at Café Koha in the heart of London’s theatreland. Of course, the now infamous Mr Smith came too but more of “that” later.
The first thing that I have to say is that when we arrived at the venue we were introduced to Kevin, the manager/producer who, in turn introduced us to Madame Bouffant herself and we had a good five minutes of chat and giggles.
To me this showed a class and professionalism that is lacking from many of the bigger performers. We were also given a free CD of Eve’s work and very kindly bought a drink. This wasn’t seen by me as any sort of bribery to arrogate a kindly review (although if they ARE on offer by anyone in the future……….we can……Ahem!…….talk. Just don’t let on that I’ve said that) but more of a way of offering a friendly greeting and, in a way saying that they acknowledged the presence of me as a reviewer and weren’t worried about the show that I was to witness. They weren’t, of course to know about the barbed tongue of Mr Smith, which gets sharpened by every sip of Chardonnay that goes down that budgies beak!
Eve Ferret, it has to be said is a big ballsy bird who hails from Pimlico so carries with her just the right amount of confidence to be exactly who she is and embrace it with humour. With it comes the very slight undertone that we are all invited to laugh along with her, love her for who she is and what she represents but mess with her and there would soon be a whole Ferret clan turning up at the door with an ultimatum. (As I wrote that, I suddenly had the vision of a group of agitated polecats saying, “Leave it aaarrrtt geezer!”) That is possibly and over romanticised view by me but then I’m a middle aged luvvie, with impeccable taste and I’m writing this review. So sue me!
As her name suggests, Madame Bouffant certainly has an exuberance of Paprika coloured tresses piled upon her head. She wafts around in a diaphanous peignoir of the brightest crimson showing enough cleavage to prove that she is in fact a real woman and not really Dave, a bus driver by day and a glamorous “lady” by night…………….(come on, we all know a “Dave”, don’t we?)
The show itself is comprised of our chanteuse and accompaniment Roddy Matthews, a guitarist who has the ability to flow through a plethora of different musical styles as well as be a perfect quarry for the irreverent humour that La Ferret disperses. Although we are on hand to him acquiring the decoration of a small black moustache implying that he is akin to a certain German dictator, don’t feel sorry for him. He discharges a good deal of acerbic retorts and dauntless facial expressions that makes one wonder just who is in charge really!
They deliver an extravagance of songs. The majority of which are penned by Ferret and Matthews although there are interspersions of some surprising cover versions. Opening with “I am the Diva” it is soon apparent that we have an accomplished performer in our midst. She courses through the opening number hitting the lyrical acrobatics like Yma Sumac on a good day. This flows into a version of the old Osmond’s ditty, “Crazy Horses” complete with a feather headdress. If at this point, there were any thoughts of this show being predictable they have definitely just been dispelled.
With “Pimlico Belle” Ferret delivers a rich, velvety blues voice that can transport us to a smoky basement Jazz bar of yester-year then ricochets into “Uptown top rankin”. Due to the size of the venue and, dare I say it her ample bosom, Madame Bouffant is unable to fulfil her desire of crowd surfing at this point. Instead, we get a replacement effigy that takes a bizarre and somewhat macabre looking journey. Passing above the heads of the audience until she arrives, looking like some sort of dishevelled sacrificial offering back to the stage. We go on to be showered with mange tout. The reason behind this escapes me now as I was laughing too much as Mr Smith exclaimed that he had a little pea on his face! There are references to Elsie Tanner, Liberace and a line, which will soon become my latest, “She’s like bacon in heels!”
Between all of this, there are little trinkets of poetry. Drafted by the lady of the evening, (if that is an acceptable term!) these are an eclectic mix of humour and pathos.
Eve Ferret is a proper old school performer or, in the words of Mr Smith, “A gutsy old bird with knockers like two ostrich eggs in a hammock!” She acknowledges and interacts with her audience as if she is an old friend. Even though the basis of the show clearly thought out, she has the ability to ad-lib and play off the hoof. Meandering off at tangents and reacting with situations as they arise. The Bouffant won’t be fazed by any occurrence. It’s her show and she’s in control. The evening is also in two parts. The second part having a slight bluer edge to it than the first but remaining within the confines of unobjectionable humour to all but the most pious of audient (who shouldn’t be in a West End basement bar on a Friday night anyway!) She could be compared to Bette, Ella or Peggy but in truth, she is Eve Ferret – Madame Bouffant. The one and only.
Review by Dickie Neil
Eve Ferret – Madame Bouffant features a life enhancing mix of Eve’s own original songs and an off the wall, eclectic and unexpected choice of more familiar material. She is supported by Roddy Matthews.
Eve Ferret graduated from the seminal Blitz nightclub in the 1980’s to appearing alongside David Bowie in both his Grammy Award- winning Jazzin’ for Blue Jean pop video and his movie Absolute Beginners; to starring in Hollywood movies Haunted Honeymoon with Gene Wilder; Ronald Neame’s Foreign Body; co-starring with Phil Daniels and Alun Armstrong in Billy the Kid and The Green Baize Vampire; and playing opposite the great Stanley Baxter in TV’s Mr Majeika.
Eve Ferret – Madame Bouffant is produced by The Ministry of Entertainment
Tuesday 28th April 2015