Before Christmas, the Oubliette Collective moved into the abandoned Shaftesbury Avenue building formerly known as The Limelight, the preferred after-party hangout for the artist formerly known as Prince. Having previously squatted in empty buildings in Waterloo and Mayfair, the Collective specialise in finding unused buildings around London and turning them into spaces where a variety of artists can create and collaborate.
They have now packed this ex-church with exhibitions and installation pieces from over a dozen artists curated by Lorenzo Durantini but we were there for The Attic, an evening of cabaret curated by twisted duo EastEnd Cabaret with a changing bill across the three nights on which it was held. We wander past fortune teller Gypsy Finta in the Cloakroom as well as multi-instrumentalist Edd Keene and experimental music collective Shitty Little Digital Pictures Of Everything in the Auditorium on our way up to the main room.
Tonight's compere Helen Arney kicks off the evening with some of her own songs before giving way to burlesque artiste Apple Tart and Dott Cotton, her clown companion. Some may call burlesque "stripping for posh people" but we think its theatrical elements raise it way above what you would expect to find in your average lapdance emporium. Ms Tart doesn't disappoint in this respect either then or later in the evening when she returns as alter ego Sharlies Chaplin. Piff The Magic Dragon works his impressive close-up magic skills on the audience, sneaking a cheeky kiss from his pretty volunteer along the way. Improv musician Becca Gibson arrives in character as bag lady The Bitter Prude before undergoing the kind of bravura makeover Gok Wan can only dream of.
Finally, EastEnd Cabaret top off the evening with a short but memorable set after a crosstown dash from their regular CellarDoor gig. Their louche lounge cover of Right Said Fred's I'm Too Sexy segues into their tale of sado-masochism and all-too-literal rendition of Kings Of Leon's Sex on Fire. The Ping Pong Song hilariously extolls the virtues of flexible genitals but the highlight for us was the reading from Communist sex manual Mr Little Red Book on the phenomenon of the "Tory Titwank" brought to life by handy props Miss Sickle and Mr Hammer. Singer Bernadette Byrne and sidekick Victor "Victy" Victoria finished their set some time after the last tube had set sail for the night but there was plenty to make up for the inevitable night bus home. We wish them well on their upcoming gigs in Australia. Try not to mention the Ashes, ladies.
We enjoyed the Arthouse's mixture of experimental, new and experienced acts and the relaxed atmosphere of the venue. Acts at The Attic on other nights included the likes of popular host Dusty Limits, burlesque star Kiki Kaboom and cabaret singer Sarah-Louise Young.
All photos (c) Ken Sparkes.
We saw Becca Gibson as part of Music Box at The Nursery Festival.
Previous articles on the Oubliette Collective.