Like an open wound that is scratched and pressed in front of you, some moments of Punk Rock are unbearable to be put through and watch. The continual intensity, which simmers below the pithy surface of Simon Stephens’ new play, the sexual games, status plays and open bursts of bullying aggression, all add to a feeling of the inherent pressure which permeates the world of today’s young people and calls uncomfortably to memories of our own youth. But when this ideas-led piece takes a turn into the melodramatic and the potential for violence explodes into actuality, it concludes in annoyingly clichéd climaxes which seriously disappoint.
Finger in the Pie Cabaret is quite a veteran on this scene and it’s easy to see why, with a loyal audience of fans and friends all eager to laugh on a Sunday night it’s a tasty little treat to get you ready to deal with the dull dull week ahead. Tonight there is a naughty feeling in the air at Madam Jo Jo’s as the sparkly cabaret sign and Pheonix Nights-esque star lit backdrop twinkle away in anticipation of the fun to follow. Myra Dubois saunters out wearing a slinky leopard print number with on trend leggings and a £2.50 bangle from Peacocks, and sets the tone of the evening with a sassy introduction and a lesson on audience etiquette which goes down very nicely, if a tad brashly.
Alan Cumming has returned in a flurry of 5 star American reviews to the West End or London’s ‘Glittering’ West End as he sardonically refers to it in his gently lilting Scottish accent. And the form of his return? A one man concert full of anecdote filled renditions of songs and stories and a couple of new pieces handily promoting an album of the same name – I Bought A Blue Car Today.
Initially giving the impression of a man wholly aware of his own import, he emerges from behind a huge picture of himself on stage; Alan (if I may be so bold) is at pains to show that actually he’s an average Joe made good. The first few songs and reminiscences are sweetly self depreciating and focus on his nerves at the thought of singing in a one man show. ‘Bless him, he’s got no pretensions’ one thinks, as he does a fine job with a Cindy Lauper song (a friend of his dontacha know). But as the show moves onwards a pace this modesty all begins to seem a little bit superficial, as does the engagement that he has created with the audience, until although you are tickled by his impish stories it all feels very much kept at arms length and away from the real ‘Alan’.
His ‘persona’ is highly likeable however and as he beguiles his way through a very Coward-esque version of a Vicky Wood comic ditty at the piano it is hard not to be swept away a little by his undoubtedly jaunty style. A heartfelt performance of Stephen Trask’s Hedwig is moving and his own song to his husband is touchingly performed, revealing his musical director Lance Horne to have a definite eye for a candied melody.
But it is when he is presenting his own work that it is most clear that he is not the musical star that the other artists on this bill are and apart from a sexy and powerful Mein Herr, he comes across an average second to these other erstwhile giants.
A night filled with quick silvered wit then, and a touch of class, but sadly not enough integrity or true star quality to lift him up from a very good actor to the vaudevillian star he so clearly wants to be.
Written for The Public Reviews