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Janie Dee on her first cabaret show since lockdown: 'It was so good to be back!'

Award-winning actress Janie Dee describes what it's like to be able to perform once again

Janie Dee
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

It was the fourth month of lockdown and I was beginning to wonder what I might do with my life other than perform. James Albrecht called me out of the blue and made a tentative offer to reopen Crazy Coqs, the cabaret Room at Brasserie Zédel, in September. I was shocked that they were making this bold move. But said, "Yes! I'd love to!"

The lack of structure had probably been the most difficult thing so far and it was such a great feeling to have a project again! And a form in which I could express some of the feelings and events I had experienced during this time.

I began the work almost immediately with the fabulous Stevie Higgins with whom I had last done cabaret in Norway at the Bergen Opera House at his invitation last year. I had decided it would be called New Life. New appreciation of every breath and everything and everyone. But also the desire to move forward. I had begun to change the way I live and decided I could talk about climate change too. I was working on The London Climate Change Festival 24/7 and yet the pandemic did more for the planet than any festival might have done! But now? Now that we are leaving our houses again? What of our mindfulness with carbon emissions now?

Well we opened last week to a sold-out room, albeit 50 per cent of the usual capacity to allow for safe distancing.

The feeling of walking through the doors of Zédel again! It was so good to be back. Hello to the doorman – temperature taken. Then down the beautiful stairs where the French/jazz music plays and one is led immediately to the Crazy Coqs doors. I enter feeling a kind of surreal sense that whilst the world stopped and we all stopped with it – maybe a pause button has been pressed. It very quickly becomes relaxed and business as usual...except...except it's not. Tom, our sound and lighting expert greets us and introduces us to the cameras. Eyes of the world that will be 'joining us' on Thursday for the first-ever Crazy Coqs Livestream. I am beyond excited that my parents in particular will be able to 'join' us! But deep down the realisation that people from all over the earth can tune in is a dream come true... I hope!

The dressing rooms are as welcoming and spotless as ever and we are offered tea and water from the wonderful Marcin, Susi and Anthony who work in the room serving drinks. It's good to be back in this room where, over the years, I have performed my different cabarets and once with my family at Christmas! Friends have joined us on stage including Jeremy King's son Jonah who sang with his friend and my eldest child Tilda. They were at Uni together at the time. It was very special. My husband sang Tannenbaum a German ode to the Christmas Tree. The whole place twinkled with the Christmas spirit. It's a special place.

I have seen so many people perform here and it embraces them and supports them creating the most wonderful atmosphere. I have witnessed people at their best here: Joe Stilgoe, Lorna Dallas, Frances Ruffelle, Clive Rowe, Kit Hesketh Harvey and James McConnel, Amanda McBroom and many more.

Following last week's sold-out shows, James offered me 3 more this week, so I am back from Tuesday at 9:30pm and now it's my turn again and I want to fill this room with love and joy and thanks.

Janie Dee: New Life will be at Crazy Coqs from September 8 to 10 at 9:30pm.

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