GT Stage

Review: Pie Eyed

Chalk Dust Cabaret goes back to the drawing board

Chalk Dust Cabaret formed at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm and, judging by the premiere of Pie Eyed at the venue some months ago, Chalk and Cheese would've been a more suitable company name. It appeared to be nothing more than a clumsy compromise on artistic differences, chucking together two distinct cabaret styles with no clear link, not even the forgotten "booze culture" theme with which they sold the show. On top of that, the set acted as the strongest commentary of the night, falling apart during the show and subsequently stealing it. We could also see the performers running around backstage, making their on-stage appearances all the less effective, and ultimately, there was more dead space than live art.

Benefit of the doubt, mind, as it was their first time performing the piece. When we heard they were bringing it to Vibe Gallery, we seriously hoped they had sorted it out, and being familiar with some of the performers, we knew they very well could.

And hurrah, improvement achieved. The tone was more consistent, and whoever rallied for the old-school avant-garde cabaret style attempted throughout the last version clearly got rightly outnumbered by those favouring the more fun, comical, and mainstream stuff. It is a piece on "booze culture" after all, and if it's going to be sold in such a way then understandably expect an audience wanting a drink and a laugh. The group met on a course lead by Marisa Carnesky at the Roundhouse, and though her brilliant work had a clear influence in the previous version, acts such as those performed by Olivia Pointing received a much-needed injection of humour this time around to become more in line with the rest of the show.

The incredibly adorable Loner Larry made a genius comeback working as a waiter, probably covering a shift for the workshy Sammie Sign-On and returning to his old ways, gloriously representing their real-life relationship with the help of Adele and some apt furniture.

The use of media was welcome, though the otherwise great act by Emily Bath depends on the projection screen, which for some of the audience was partly-obscured by her. As for the splendid singing from the darling of facial expressions Rhys Cook - the content displayed on the projection screen was in tune until the slideshow ended before the act did - and all you could see was the cursor scrolling over his face thanks to the tech manager sitting stage-right. Dunja Kuhn's burlesque frog was a highlight which earned the night's first applause, albeit awkwardly started by us. This was followed by a crucial upward shift in energy which thankfully carried on into the second half, kicking off with some impressive hula-hooping to Nineties euro-pop.

The gorgeous Daniel Ash returned as a pint-sized stripper with a few surprises in one of the strongest acts – an apparent commentary on masculinity and not just a mere excuse to show off his seriously delectable body – though we’re not complaining either way. Cartoonish cuties Isobel Palmer and Mary Belladonna delighted and then united what seemed to be an actual company of co-members this time, and not what seemed to be a handful of rehearsal regulars with a few off-key cameos clocking in and out like last time.

Chalkettes, be silly and playful from the beginning, and not just before the interval with a bit o' cringe karaoke. Stick to how it's sold on paper and get boozy from start to finish, and then the audience could well be on side throughout, perhaps with a celebratory drink or three after.

GT gives it 3/5

Words Sam Reynolds

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