Raunchy Ghosts From London's Past Appear At Cafe De Paris

The Service at Cafe de Paris ★★★★★

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 6 months ago
Raunchy Ghosts From London's Past Appear At Cafe De Paris The Service at Cafe de Paris 5
Josephine Baker returns to Cafe de Paris

Cafe de Paris' rip-roaringly raunchy new show The Service, comes punctuated with the banshee-wail of an air raid siren. It's the kind of throwaway sting you'd usually toss into a set to froth things up, but here, it's the eerie harbinger of a ghost: that of Ken 'Snake Hips' Johnson.

This show is riddled with spectres. Being haunted by a pageant of ghosts was never high up on our to do list. But when they slink on in the guise of yesteryear's licentious Cafe de Paris performers and punters — Noel Coward, Josephine Baker (an earlier Beyonce, who owned her racist banana skirt), an uncanny Marlene Dietrich — well, that's different.

The creators couldn't have done a better job: fizzing burlesque — featuring a Princess Margaret 20 times naughtier than her incarnation in The Crown — is poured liberally over a genuine sense of story, history and tragedy. You'll learn more about London — certainly its liberal, saucy side —  from The Service, than you will at some museums.

Talking of history and tragedy, the real showstopper is a reflective aerial entanglement above the very stage on which Snake Hips Johnson was killed by a falling bomb in 1941. After a couple of house cocktails, it's sure to put a lump in your throat.

Throughout the night, though, something is bugging us; we've seen this setup somewhere before. Suddenly, it clicks: surely there are hints of Malcolm McLaren's punk-doc-musical The Ghosts of Oxford Street. That's something we make a habit of watching every Christmas. We'd happily enjoy The Service once every 365 days, too.

The Service, every Friday at Cafe de Paris. Tickets from £20

Last Updated 28 March 2018