Jeanne Rathbone



I think we are ready for a revival of VARIETY SHOWS- all is forgiven. Not that there is anything to forgive as it was television that destroyed them. Here is what the font – Wikipedia- says:

A Variety show is an entertainment made up of a variety of acts, especially musical performances and sketch comedy and normally introduced by a compere  or host. Other types of acts include magic , animal and circus acts, acrobatics, juggling and ventriloquism. The variety format made its way from the Vicrorian era stage to radio and  television. Variety shows were a staple of  Anglophone television from its early days into the 1970s, and lasted into the 1980s. In several parts of the world, variety TV remains popular and widespread..

The format is basically that of music hall in the UK or vaudeville in  the United States. Variety in the UK evolved in theatres and music halls, and later in working men’s clubs. Most of the early top performers on British television and radio did an apprenticeship either in stage variety, or during World War II in Entertainment National service Association ENSA. The ultimate accolade for a variety artist for decades was to be asked to do the annual  Royal Command Performance at the London Palladium theatre, in front of the monarch.


TEA DANCES are back and so is BURLESQUE, although most burlesque shows seem  to have descended into old fashioned striptease. Here is some blurb for this venue in Liverpool which sounds like a great, fun night out. It is interesting to note that the tickets cost £18.


The Martini Lounge is Liverpool’s long-standing burlesque and variety show, hosted by professional burlesque performer Millie Dollar and firm regular compere Fred Bear since 2007. The show established a not-to-be-missed status with a devoted audience and continues to attract new fans with every event.

Sizzling burlesque performances in glamorous dresses, variety, comedy and vocal acts are part of the programme, which is carefully put together by Millie Dollar, each show anew, making them the success they are.

The sell out evenings, audience response and also critical acclaim The Martini Lounge has received throughout the years encourage us to continually grow the show into a local gem and one of the larger and finest burlesque and variety shows in the UK and Europe.

TIME OUT only has Cabaret listing but no Variety section yet. Here are the listings for cabaret and burlesque  in  LONDON.

Most viewed cabaret events

  1. La Rève
  2. Wam Bam Club
  3. Office Party
  4. Friday Folies Bergère
  5. Thoughts ‘Round Midnight
  6. Decades
  7. Bourgeois & Maurice
  8. Terror 2011
  9. Duckie
  10. Angels Dining at the Ritz

Here is a review of  Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club

Dating from the 1950s, this is a retro haven. The sticky red carpet and broken lampshades perfectly suit Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club’s programme of quirky lounge, retro rock ‘n’ roll and fancy-dress burlesque parties, cabaret line-ups and prop-themed nights. Dancetastic troupe Sink the Pink, offbeat art collective Oh My God I Miss You and the arts-and-craftsy Hungamunga host off-the-wall shindigs on a semi-regular basis and the club is home to adventurous cabaret nights such as the all-female Blue Stocking Society and David Lynch-themed Double R Club. The mood is friendly, the playlist upbeat and the air always full of arty playful mischief. Door staff can be quite strict so make an effort for dress-up nights, and bear in mind the bar is cash only.

Here is piece from TIME OUT in 2007  By Simon Baird

Think of variety shows and the chances are you’ll cringe at memories of being force-fed dire entertainment at a Butlin’s holiday camp as a youth, or enduring so-bad-they’re-embarrassing shows in Blackpool.

Fast-forward to 2007, though, and variety clubs are thoroughly modern affairs. Sure, you’ll still be sitting down looking towards a stage, but chances are you won’t be yawning through some has-been West End musicals star’s set; you’re more likely to see a girl wrap herself up in gaffa tape and undo it with her teeth, some burlesque housewives cleaning up a storm in yellow gloves and not much else, or perhaps some fire-breathers and knife-throwing masters.

Here is another article from TIME OUT by Ben Walters

Thanks to La Clique and La Soirée, the cabaret scene in London has never been bigger. But how did we get here?

Over the past year, you might have gawped at a food fight on ‘The X Factor’ or an arrival-lounge rendition of ‘The Passenger’ in a mobile phone ad. Perhaps you witnessed avant-garde drag queens marauding around Selfridges, scrambled to nab a ticket for the hottest title at the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival or queued for standing-room-only musical character comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe. Or maybe you got wind of a promenade show at the National Portrait Gallery, or were bowled over by the tongue-twisting trannies hosting Lovebox and dishing out pop-up meals at Glasto? Or…

Let’s just say cabaret has reached places you wouldn’t expect to find it. Meanwhile, West End crowds flock to grand-scale shows like the Olivier Award-winning La Clique and La Soirée, while old-school venues from Sadler’s Wells to the Royal Festival Hall snap up underground talent. Cabaret in 2011 is booming.

So what is ‘cabaret’, anyway?
There’s no simple answer, and that’s a lot of work we’re claiming for a scene many people have barely heard of. Fusing and confusing elements from practically every field of live performance – music, dance, theatre, comedy, magic, striptease and more – cabaret has meant different things in different times and places, from sensuous Parisian glamour to scabrous Weimar satire, and from polished Manhattan supper clubs to our own knockabout music-hall tradition.

Even so, a few key elements stand out. Cabaret should be both serious and fun, engaging with and subverting social and political conventions in ways that raise laughs, wolf-whistles, even a gasp or two. A cabaret show can offer a mix of forms, often as a compered sequence of shorter turns. It uses direct address and relies on a sustained collaboration between those on and off stage; this is lubricated by another defining characteristic: plentiful booze, along with informal seating arrangements and low ticket prices. Cabaret promises accessibility and transgression.

What’s out there?
Time Out London has been championing the latest crop of this kind of work for some time now, starting in 2006 with the magazine’s Social Club section, which listed a range of offbeat nocturnal activities. In 2009, as the scene went stellar, we realised there was more than enough performance work to warrant a dedicated Cabaret section. (This harks back to our Cabaret, Comedy & Variety section that ran from 1983 until the early ’90s, when the cabaret bit yielded to the alternative comedy explosion.)

The beauty of the current London scene is its variety – in fact, it’s more a collection of overlapping scenes, each with its own roots. Burlesque, which engages with glamour and gender through dance or clowning routines that culminate in nudity, largely grew out of the recent trend for all things retro. Performers who sing comic songs in character often come from a drama-school background. And many of the stars of what could be called ‘post-drag’ – artists whose outré outfits and routines defy both male and female norms – emerged from the gay clubbing, party and performance scenes. Circus and skills-based acts are booming, and there’s a sub-scene of live art and academic practice that overlaps with cabaret too.

The closest thing to a standard format is the variety show, with a compère presenting a range of turns. ‘You get more bang for your buck,’ suggests Scottee, who hosts Eat Your Heart Out (EYHO). ‘If you don’t like what’s on, you don’t have to watch it. You can go out for a fag, come back and there’ll be something else that you probably will like.’ Newbie variety successes have included the Blue Stocking Society, a showcase for women performers, and the David Lynch-themed Double R Club.

Perhaps because collaboration is intrinsic to its practice, cabaret is continually evolving. ‘It’s a playground for new forms,’ says Dickie Beau, veteran of several recent full-length shows – Duckie’s ‘Readers Wifes Fan Club’, EYHO’s ‘Violence’ and his own ‘Retroflection’ – that meld cabaret and theatre with groundbreaking results. Work with moving images is also growing: several of our cover stars are applying cabaret’s DIY ethos to film, TV, web and video projects.

Why now?
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that cabaret is blossoming as other aspects of society are being left to rot; it’s a form that thrives by turning economic and political crap into artistic fertiliser. These artists also have a head start when it comes to marginalisation and shoestring budgets: ‘Everyone’s in it out of love,’ notes Jonny Woo. ‘We should be proud that it’s self-created. No one’s come along and given us spaces.’ Today’s performers also have practical benefits unavailable to their forebears – not least the miracle of social networking, which allows for free targeted publicity and the fostering of a community.

And that might be the most appealing thing about cabaret for its ever-growing audience. Some shows directly reflect our new political landscape, others offer glamorous or playful escapism, most are somewhere in between. Whatever the content, cabaret offers an experience that is both artistic and social, that requires and rewards engagement, and sends you home with change in your pocket and a smile on your face. That’s not a bad proposition these days. Don’t expect the show to end any time soon.

I THINK WE DO NEED GOOD, OLD FASHIONED VARIETY as well, especially for the 60+  and they should be available locally. As I have made the point many times before stand –up comedy is ghettoised in the comedy circuit/clubs and is catering for young  audiendces and  dominated by penis owners. COMEDY NEEDS TO BE FREED FROM THE COMEDY CIRCUIT GHETTO  and returned to its roots in Musichall/Variety Shows and Vaudeville.

I am meeting with some folk from Batterea Arts centre and I shall be making this suggestion to them.

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