Where else would you find Infinite Variety, a cabaret which “combines the sexiness of Paris’ Crazy Horse with The Whoopee Club’s decadent arthouse aesthetic”, and a nod to the best in British Vaudeville, but underneath the arches of Charing Cross Station, at the intimate New Players Theatre.
This is a bold, brash bonanza of songs that are delivered with verve, energy and panache by three talented performers who leave you wanting more, for the whole extravaganza lasts but for a fleeting 90 minutes.
This cornucopia of cadences is linked by sparring scenes between John Joseph and Gemma, whose alter ego personas, of 'transatlantic performance artist' and 'baby doll in nightie with Shirley Temple blonde wig', carp and cajole behind the scenes, though at times they don't always appear comfortable with the routines.
The show opens with a visually stunning backlit performance by Polly Cupcake, whose translucent boned undergarment acts as a tent through which we first see the other performers as shadow figures, whilst she sings the opening number suspended some 20 feet above.
The songs, beautifully arranged and often co-written by Marcella Puppini the MD, have been well chosen and are a mixture of classics like “Shake Sugaree”, “Never let the same dog bite you twice” and Tom Lehrer's “Masochism Tango”, to self-penned gems like JJ's “Bad Language” and Polly's “Femme Fatale”.
The music is live and the house band The Underdog, consisting of guitar, drums, double bass and percussion, keep the pitch at a high energy level and even perform one self penned number of their own.
Polly Cupcake is a revelation, having a great range and a riveting voice that is sexy and spellbinding with a delivery to die for, as does John Joseph, who languishes lugubriously in his risqué renditions of his own material whilst his consciously controlled camp performance, with echoes of Noel Coward, is a delight. Gemma Whelan's 'baby doll' is a performance that draws sympathy, allowing her to display her wide range of abilities to dance, sing and act.
Unfortunately, the design doesn't always complement the performances, and the lighting especially is rather bland and boring -with so wide a black space there needs to be more colour and control, as glimpsed in one number towards the end.
- Dave Jordan