views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Black Cat Cabaret: Nocturne
Spiegeltent - London Wonderground, Southbank
3rd July 2015


Lili La Scala

Photography provided by the London Wonderground

Anyone who lives at the top of the Piccadilly line shares the same worry - fall asleep on your way into town and you'll wake up at Heathrow. No one wants to find themselves at Heathrow. Not even those with plane tickets. In Black Cat Cabaret's new show Nocturne, a traveller (Ben Cutler) has a similar experience - on his way to the Wonderground, he suddenly realises he's drifted off just before Waterloo. The world in which he's woken up is strange and beautiful; certainly no Terminal One monstrosity. A mysterious guide (Lili La Scala) takes him through his subconscious, exploring his deepest, darkest fantasies and fears. There's just enough of a narrative to link together a number of cabaret and circus acts.

Much of the choreography blurs into a frenzied mesh of bodies, with the traveller's lust explored by the lovers (Nathan & Isis), a dance trio (Cabaret Rouge) and a lone woman (Katrina Lilwall) who performs what can only be described as a lapdance with nipple tassels, fire breathing and bondage, all at the same time. Lilwall also twists her body in chains suspended from the ceiling - a slightly darker version of an acrobat tumbling through ribbons - contorting her flawless body into impossible positions. If you're one of the people who thought the Protein World tube adverts were designed to personally attack you, this performance really isn't going to be for you. Lilwall is utterly hypnotic - she's graceful, gorgeous and so very bendy. Definitely unapologetic eye candy, but far more than that - there's a clear skill behind all her movement, making her the runaway highlight.

Nathan & Isis bring a great deal of passion to the show, but it's clear that Isis is really trying hard to maintain her balance, and when Nathan drops her, all illusion is gone. It's a shame, because it's one small slip in an otherwise beautiful sequence. Not only do we see the traveller's desire, but his inadequacies are revealed by the aerial tricks of another man (Bret Pfister), with Black Cat Cabaret bringing us plenty of naked flesh. Whatever your tastes, there's definitely something to draw your eye - all in the name of art.

The arrival of the traveller's neglectful mother (Amy G) creates plenty of humour. Momma keeps bringing up birthdays he'd rather forget and his enduring lack of confidence around girls. She's deliberately a hateful caricature, as pathetic as she is cruel. Some of her time in the spotlight does last a bit too long. Pretending you're falling over in roller skates whilst always just managing to stay on your feet is a difficult feat and this is initially impressive, but the joke starts to wear thin after it's repeated over and over again. A bizarre dance number on skates involving a chicken is however surprisingly inspired: bonkers, but brilliant.

There are undoubtedly some truly captivating moments in this show, with director Simon Evans framing the opening and conclusion very well. However, he doesn't always consider the stage's height, with most of the audience suffering from a restricted view for large chunks. You can always figure out what's happened, but it's a shame to lose out on the stunning visuals that Evans has magicked up. The music is always well chosen - pulsating tracks and strobe lights ramping up the dreamlike feel to the production.

Starting 25 minutes late for a 9.30pm show due to poor crowd management is nearly unforgivable, but actually, by the end of the show, 80 minutes plus interval, we'd almost forgotten. (Well, until the swarms started desperately running for the last trains home, that is.) Nocturne is laced with innuendo and bare skin; a titillating and striking piece of cabaret, perfectly suited to the Wonderground. Just make sure you don't fall asleep on your way there, eh? You never know what could happen in the Nocturne.

Black Cat Cabaret: Nocturne ran from 15th May to 11th September 2015 at the London Wonderground (Fridays only).

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

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