Boys and girls, hold onto your underwear: EastEnd Cabaret are the sexually deviant singers your mother warned you about.
This time last year, Bethnal Green’s lewdest couple were surfing the wave of new interest in cabaret and encouraging South Bank passersby to engage in acts of self-discovery. After a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe and a tour down under which bagged them the Adelaide Fringe 2012 Best Cabaret Award, the depraved duo return to the area for a series of three shows at the London Wonderground.
EastEnd Cabaret comprises of the vamp-chanteuse Bernadette Byrne and her half-man/half-woman instrumentalist Victor/Victoria. That these are two of the greatest comedy creations of recent years is without doubt. Byrne has a mind and a French accent both filthier than a Holborn gutter while “Victy” is all about the deadpan asides, jealous snipes and musical virtuosity. Together, they form a delicious alloy which is far greater than the sum of the parts.
Their new show continues from last year’s debut The Revolution Will Be Sexual. Long-term fans of their underground act may be disappointed to hear that the communist angle has been all but dropped: there is no mention of Mr Little Red Book (the girls’ Marxist Karma Sutra) and the handy props Mr Sickle and Miss Hammer which they used to illustrate positions like The Tory Titwank. Also gone are the cover versions and the more risqué favourites like The Rape Song.
That’s not to say they are now playing it safe. The first five minutes are strangely reminiscent of the start of Krapp’s Last Tape with Victor/Victoria moving around the stage in wordless wonder before Byrne makes her appearance. Those without a sense of the bizarre and an appreciation of dark humour may not last the course as the next hour covers masturbation, necrophilia, virgin defloration and the benefits of strong pelvic muscles.
With its new styling, the show is a tighter beast but has lost some of its edginess and intrigue. Having said that, these perverse purveyors of everything that goes hump in the night are among the shiniest of stars in cabaret’s firmament and should be seen at the earliest opportunity.
See East End Cabaret in the Spiegeltent at London Wonderground on the Southbank on Friday 22 June and Thursday 26 July (standard tickets £12.50, ‘Wonder Seats’ £17.50, concessions £11).