views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Anna Lou's Contes d'Amour
Cabaret Bar (The Vaults)
27th November 2014


Publicity image for Anna Lou's Contes d'Amour

Photography provided by Mimetic Festival

It turns out that The Ruby Darlings aren't the only girls prepared to talk dirty for money, cabaret sweetheart Anna Lou Larkin is similarly uninhibited. Contes d'Amour is one hour of Larkin telling stories about things that she swears happened to various "friends" and definitely not her (ah, non), complete with plenty of very English swearing, a very thick French accent and a wide smile. Everything that comes out of her mouth is pure filth, but she's charming nonetheless. Perhaps it's that "je ne sais quoi"?

Fashioning replacement boyfriends out of seal blubber, stalking celebrities, falling in love with a man with a rather niche fetish - Larkin fits an impossibly wide range of material into only half a dozen songs, and with a lot of detail to boot. She provides her own accompaniment with an accordion, and when she decides she needs a bit of support after all, plucks two hapless backup dancers from the audience and wraps them in bedsheets. You may think you've come to be entertained by Larkin, but it's really the other way round.

"I went too far, I'm sorry," says Larkin at one point, twinkling merrily away, but she's not sorry at all. This in an unapologetically fun show in which Larkin does whatever she wants and depending on your luck, that may or may not involve you. A regular on the cabaret scene, Larkin has the versatility to serve as a cheeky wee interlude, or sustain a full length show by herself. At no point in her 60-minute set were we bored - she could probably continue for much longer and still keep an audience's interest.

Larkin's songs are dialogue heavy, and although the melodies to most are easily forgotten, she does end her night with a particularly irritating earworm, which I fear I'll never shake, and which is inappropriate to repeat in polite company. Again, she has a lot in common with The Ruby Darlings. It turns out if you leave the Mimetic Festival with nothing else, you'll leave with a repertoire of sing songs you must never hum at work. What's sung in the tunnels, stays in the tunnels. Or it's do not pass go, do no collect £200, instead head straight to HR for a serious talk.

Dressed in an straw Oxford boater, vivid blue tights and a pair of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pants, Larkin has the defiant dress sense of a drunk student, but it's all part of her charm. She certainly has the honesty of said drunk student, going into all the gory details of her - sorry, her friends' - misadventures. This is not a show to bring your gran to, but anyone marginally younger with a good sense of humour will find Larkin a real treat. There's nothing she's uncomfortable discussing, she's energetic, good-natured and importantly for a singer, she has a decent pair of lungs on her.

The title may be a little misleading - Contes d'Amour suggests a slightly more romantic list of songs to me - but Larkin's numbers are all themed around actual and would-be relationships. She has an interesting take on storytelling, and a thoroughly magnetic appeal. Like any good storyteller, she has plenty of material ready to whip out, and a wonderfully expressive face. Take the accordion away, bid her to stay silent, and you could probably still get the gist of the joke from her grinning and gurning.

I've seen a lot of barmy acts in this year's Mimetic Festival - yes, out there even for me - and Mlle Larkin is certainly one to whom I wouldn't have otherwise been introduced, and one I'm glad to have seen. Watch out for Larkin on the cabaret circuit - she's guaranteed to raise a wink and a giggle.

Anna Lou's Contes d'Amours ran on 27th November 2014 at The Vaults, as part of Mimetic Festival.

Nearest tube station: Waterloo (Bakerloo, Northern, Jubilee)

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