Review: Cocoa Butter Club at the Underbelly
I don’t know about you, but I tend to get a really stinking cold around twice a year. You know the kind – when your head gets heavy, you can only breathe out of one nostril (if you’re lucky) and you develop a deeply attractive hacking cough. It’s nothing serious, and definitely not worth the 46 words I just used to describe it – but it’s unpleasant enough to make you miserable and spoil your life for a few days.
All this considered, I’m sure you can understand how truly miffed I was that this year’s winter cold reared its ugly head right before a show I have been waiting to see for a very long time. AND at one of my favourite venues. DAMN YOU GERMS.
However, it is a testament to the quality of said show that I enjoyed it until the end (even though it over ran), clapped through my headache and whooped through my hacking cough. Honestly – my plus one was generally concerned about the whooping- but I couldn’t help it!
And what was this illness-defying show, I (presume to) hear you ask? None other than a home-grown celebration of performers of colour: Sadie Sinner’s marvellous Cocoa Butter Club, doing its first ever show at the Underbelly Spiegeltent.
You wouldn’t have believed it was the first ever show at this venue, it was so slick and polished. We entered the Spiegeltent to the spellbinding sounds of beatboxer Marv Radio (who we have raved about before) with screens all around the stage playing clips of old-school cartoons showing the racial stereotyping which still hasn’t fully disappeared to this day.
This set the tone for an evening full of politics and passion, mixed with all the humour and glitz you expect from a cabaret show. It was powerful, uplifting and bursting with energy. Even plague-ridden little old me left feeling positive. (Until my bus was diverted on the way home and added an hour to my journey – but that’s a story for another time…)
In recent years, shows and producers have – quite rightly – come under fire for the lack of diversity in their line-ups. Newbies entering the scene tend to rely on the people they know when organising a show, and some of the long-standing major players may ignore the need to try something new. Cocoa Butter Club is a living, breathing example that London is stuffed to the rafters with talented people of colour and any show which ignores this will be duller and more old-fashioned as a result.
Highlights of the evening were…pretty much every act! As I sat down to write this review and was listing my favourite bits, I realised I had essentially replicated the set list… so I’ve picked out the shiniest of shiny gems.
We saw Cleopantha perform as part of Gersch and Rox’s Hip Hop Cabaret and honestly…she is the bomb. The kind of dancer this world needs, her piece was a giant “Fuck you!” to the idea that women dancing have to be super-sexy and polished and pretty. Ironically, the whole act was sexier as a result… She is fierceness personified. Keep an eye out for her.
Miss Demi Noire was a burlesque dream, sweet and sassy by turns, watching her was like being transported into a musical from the 30s. Absolutely mesmerising. Then there was Lasana Shabazz, who came out as a gold-plated leather warrior dream. Their lip-sync nearly had me springing to my feet it was so good – perfectly timed and punchy and bold. Dark mime clown, Scarlet Shambles, brought something totally different to the table – I’ve never seen anything like it before. Haunting and emotive, it still managed to sit perfectly within the rest of the show.
Proceedings were presided over by the glorious Sadie Sinner and Xana, a sound designer, poet and live loop musician whose lyrical interludes imbued the show with an extra layer of profundity and strength. If only I had twice as many words, so I could wax lyrical about the hula-hooping Symoné, the stunning physical theatre number by Rhys’s Pieces, and one of the most beautiful aerial pole pieces I’ve ever seen – but there are only so many hours in a day!
Personally, I might have cut out one of the burlesque acts, but that is my only point of criticism – Cocoa Butter Club was virtually flawless. And there’s more where this came from – you can follow the talents of these performers, future shows and more at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
The sort of show that will make you want to stomp your feet and scream your approval…even when you have the world’s worst cold. Get yourself there.