IT’S easy to miss – buried behind the Phoenix Theatre in London’s West End – but the Phoenix Arts Club is well worth a visit, especially if you like your night-time entertainment a little unconventional. Or even better, a little bit naughty.
Now celebrating its 35th year and having undergone a makeover, the club is a home for drag queens, cabaret artists and purveyors of the art that is burlesque to perform and entertain.
As a consequence, it’s a fun place to de-stress after a hard day’s work, with exotic cocktails and pizza on tap. Yes, old school, a little rudimentary and seedy in a nice kind of way. But if you are after something different – and dare I say a little risqué – Phoenix Arts Club will be right up your street.
Throughout March, the club is hosting drag queen nights (singing power ballads), cabaret nights and dragaoke. For the remaining three Thursday nights (16th, 23rd and 30th), it is home to Next Generation Burlesque, hosted by the indefatigable and acid tongued Miss Chastity Belt. Boy can she swear. Boy can she talk.
The show, at just over two hours long, is well worth a peek as Miss Chastity Belt belts out a number of songs. In between, she introduces the audience to the fabulous burlesque skills of Miss Betsy Rose (all five foot long ostrich feathers), the foxy and raunchy Miss Demi Noire, fire-eater Kate Errington and the lithe Jools Rousel (performing rather wonderful things on a rope or two hung from the club’s ceiling while wearing very little).
Although Miss Chastity Belt talks up the nudity, the show is actually devoid of it. It’s more suggestive than anything else. Yet, it’s only for the open minded as nipple tassels are rotated furiously like helicopter blades, fur stoles travel provocatively across erogenous zones, and bare flesh is much to the fore. Lewd? No. Artistic? Yes. This is performance art which we should all cherish and preserve.
There’s some audience participation along the way, but nothing to get too hung up about – the worst that will happen is that you will be sat upon or smiled at suggestively.
Miss Chastity Belt is the sticking plaster that holds the show together. She’s witty, naughty and she can’t half sing. Her rendition of Minnie The Moocher (a song about a woman’s descent into drug addiction) was one of the highlights of the night (assisted with participation from a willing audience).
Hidee hidee hidee hi
Hode hode hode ho
Hee dee hee dee hee dee hee.
In a West End increasingly anodyne and dictated by making money, the Phoenix Arts Club is a step back in time. Some won’t like it. More Clothes Off than Noises Off (playing at the Phoenix Theatre next door) But a majority will love it if the enthusiastic reception to the show on March 9 is anything to go by.
Phoenix Arts Club is an essential part of the West End’s fabric. Give it a whirl and a twirl.