Kirsten O'Brien

Kirsten O'Brien

Punk Cabaret

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

‘The Broadway Danny Rose of England,’ is how comic Lewis Schaffer described agent Mike Leigh, the man behind this quirky and eclectic new variety night. And seeing some of the strange vaudeville acts that graced this packed inaugural bill, you can see exactly why.

Sure, there are more conventional sketch and character comics in the line-up, but it’s the weird ones you’ll remember. Spanky Botty Shakespeare – a mellifluous actor delivering a Merchant Of Venice soliloquy while slapping the bare buttocks of his female sidekick – is a niche speciality act that can surely never be commercially viable. But it’s beautifully silly, and you have to admire any such commitment to the utterly pointless.

MC Rabbi put Jewish traditions into a Vanilla Ice rap – a direct descendant of the old Hebrew heavy metal act that once toured the circuit, Guns N Moses – while the religious theme was also taken up by the Reverend Two Tone and the Reverend Blue Jean, who bring the gospel story to life by setting it to a catchy reggae beat… and illustrating it with increasingly unlikely snack products, starting with Jesus as a couple of Twix bars and getting progressively more random.

This brilliantly daft act is actually the creation of Little Britain regular Paul Putner and his sketch partner Glen Richardson, who were also responsible for two other silly and funny skits of the night: most memorably one revolving around late sitcom composer Ronnie Hazelhurst that required some bizarre performance skills, but was pulled off expertly.

The Pros From Dover also contributed sketches – including an audaciously ambitious one set at the large hadron collider that almost took as much precision engineering to pull off as the original CERN project; but with the notable difference that the comedy version actually worked. Their ironically sexist charity appeal was fantastically provocative, too.

The Gadabouts provided more traditional sketches, which were funny enough but couldn’t stand out against the more inventive offering elsewhere, while Ruth Bratt’s blissfully domesticated character of Alan’s Wife, nonchalantly unaware of her bleak marital existence, could easily find a place in a TV sketch show. Which, given the woeful state of the genre, isn’t exactly high praise – but Bratt did bring a few nifty touches to the script.

Mixing up the variety even more, well-established strangeling Doktor CocaColaMcDonalds gave us his deliberately pitiful, out-of-key rendition of Last Christmas on his cheap keyboard, while Jesse Robinson impersonated Kate Bush and Amy Winehouse, reducing her singing style to a series of incomprehensible brays.

Then there was Madame Galina Korsakova, the demanding ballet diva creation of Iestyn Edwards. Despite being an unlikely shape for a prima ballerina, Edwards is surprisingly light on his feet, with his impressive spins genuinely impressing the audience of hard-to-please media types. The bulk of his act, though, is audience participation – dragging up reluctant men to partner him, including this Chortle reviewer in long-festering revenge for a two-star review doled out seven years ago.

Since then, he’s improved by leaps and bounds – if you’ll excuse the obvious turn of phrase – his act honed in front of the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he’s a regular performer and crowd favourite. Gone is the bullying stance that once made his show so uncomfortable, making this more like a playful round of The Generation Game than anything too embarrassing. But it’s definitely more fun from the audience than from the stage, believe me…

The only stand-ups to be seen on the bill were Kirsten O’Brien, hosting the first half with tales from kids’ TV and working with Brian Blessed, and Lewis Schaffer MCing after the break, becoming funnier the more aggressively arrogant he became, although he dragged out a few links on what was fast becoming a very long night.

Backed by the Comedy Central channel and hosted by the achingly hip Punk nightclub, Punk Cabaret aims to be a monthly event. Let’s hope they never run out of freaks and weirdos for this decidedly unconventional, but hugely entertaining, idea.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
London, April 2009.

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Published: 1 Jan 2009

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Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2006

Lesley's Lunch Hour


Misc live shows

Punk Cabaret


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