Now that summer’s well and truly upon us, you might be tempted to spend the next three months sipping on cider in some of the city’s best beer gardens. But there comes a point where endless queues for the outdoor bar and severe bouts of sunstroke begin to wear thin. So when you fancy a night without bustling for a space on an already over-populated bench, it’s time discover some lovely ladies (and gentlemen) showing more skin than the capital’s entire sunbathing population put together.
Wam Bam Club, The Bloomsbury Ballroom
Held in the oh-so opulent surroundings of The Bloomsbury Ballroom, Wam Bam Club lies at the heart of all things burlesque in London. Featuring an ever changing line up of some of the country's top cabaret talent, two resident troupes and hosted by the fabulous Lady Alex, it’s the perfect place if you want to whip out your best boa and dress up to the nines. You can even book onto a burlesque taster class before the show so you can shimmy along with the scene’s sassiest stars. It’s a great place for burly beginners, as are the cabaret nights held at Proud in both Camden and the City.
Cabaret Roulette, Madame Jojo’s
The premise is this: each show has a theme chosen in advance by the night’s fans, before eight cabaret performers have two months to create a brand new act to tie in with the theme of the night. Given the variety of the performers involved, from magicians to musicians (alongside a bunch of burlesquers), the results can be wildly different. While it’s not the place to go if you’re after an evening of Dita look-a-likes, it’s one of the best nights in the capital to see experimental, neo-burlesque before it gets airbrushed by the bigger nights on the scene.
Burlesque Idol, Madame Jojo’s
Burlesque Idol has built a bit of a name for itself as the place to see the best of the industry’s new talent. New performers battle it out every month for a place in the annual final where they’ll get the chance to launch onto the scene as its newest tassel-twirling superstar. And while there’s no Simon Cowell, there’s an panel of expert judges who certainly don’t pull any punches when it comes to picking the cream of the crop.
If you’re interested in more of the city’s newcomer nights that don’t command the same price tags as the more premium events, check out Finger in the Pie, Infinitease and the New Burlesque Awards, too.
Double R Club, Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club
If you thought a night inspired by all things David Lynch would be just a bit too niche to hold its own on the capital’s cabaret scene, you couldn’t be more wrong. Filling up Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, The Double R Club embraces all things absurdist and surreal with a stellar line up headed by the weird and wonderful Benjamin Louche. It’s twisted, dark and’ll probably leave you simultaneously sickened and amazed… but that’s kind of the point.
Gypsy Hotel, Boston Music Room
Billing itself as ‘bourbon-soaked, snake-charmin’, rock’n’roll cabaret’, Gypsy Hotel is burlesque’s motorcycle riding, leather clad cousin. Featuring the some of the city’s edgiest performers alongside up-and-coming bands, it’s the ultimate place if you’re after something a bit more underground. Given its humble venue in Boston Music Room, Tufnell Park, you might be surprised to see that the regulars always dress to their rockabilly best, and beware — a long standing ‘no Ugg boots’ rule is strictly enforced.
Soho Burlesque Club, Hippodrome Casino
Curated by the drop-dead gorgeous Miss Polly Rae in the Hippodrome Casino, The Soho Burlesque Club hosts some of the biggest names in the circuit with the likes of Laurie Hagen, Kiki Kaboom and Kitty Bang Bang having already graced the stage. It’s all about glitz, glam and putting on a show, and without a doubt one of London’s best nights for preened, polished burlesque perfection.
Salon des Artistes by Black Cat Cabaret, Café Royal
Giving Wam Bam a run for its money, Black Cat Cabaret offers the full three-course cabaret experience with a slightly edgier twist. Here you’re less likely to encounter a plethora of hen nights, and instead see acts inspired by the burlesque world’s dark, seedy underbelly. They’ll also be putting on a show at this summer’s London Wonderground at the Southbank, another great to spot to soak up some burly action.
Kit Kat Cabaret, Cellar Door
This wonderfully intimate venue is a great place to enjoy burlesque, with some seriously high-class hotties ruffling their feathers only centimetres away from your eyes. And the added allure of heading downstairs into a converted public restroom can’t be beaten if you want to impress your guests. On the downside, the place can sometimes be packed and it’s rare you’ll be able to steal a seat so you might want to leave those killer stilettos at home.
Cirque le Soir, Ganton St
Spanning across London, Dubai and Shanghai, Cirque le Soir has made a name for itself as the best of circus sideshow burlesque. Alongside classics performers, you’ll find twisted acts that’d be more at home in a Victorian freak show than just off Carnaby Street. Its club vibe means it's often graced by visiting celebs looking to make a naughty name for themselves, and the first choice for anyone after truly spectacular night out.
By Emma Brooke