Monthly Archives: October 2014

Cabaret Playroom: where things may go tits up… if you’re lucky

Tricity Vogue on Cabaret Playroom, the Albany’s monthly night for new work by cabaret performers. The next Cabaret Playroom takes place on Monday 3 November.

Tapdancer Josephine Shaker told me after her spot at last month’s Cabaret Playroom that it had felt like jumping off a cliff. What had? Talking on stage, she answered. Josephine Shaker is a tap dancer, burlesque artist, physical comedian and clown of spectacular skill and aplomb, but when it came to opening her mouth in the spotlight, she was way outside her comfort zone. But she said afterwards it was one of the most rewarding gigs she’d done in ages.

Going outside your comfort zone is a necessary part of any artist’s development, and even cabaret artists, who seem to spend their lives outside most people’s comfort zones, have their own particular safe areas they tend to stick to. A burlesque dancer might be quite happy spinning naked flames around her head, but terrified of singing in public. A cabaret singer might be perfectly happy to reveal any secret about themselves on stage, but baulk at attempting to play a musical instrument in front of anyone else. And seasoned performers are just as prone to sticking to what they know how to do, perhaps even more so, because those of us who’ve been doing cabaret for a while have expectations to meet, or at least feel as if we do, from people in the audience who’ve seen us before, or heard of us. You’re only as good as your last gig, and if thirty people go home and tell their mates, “I saw Tricity Vogue but she was a bit all over the place,” that’ll be another sixty or so people that won’t bother going to see you next time you’re on somewhere.

That’s the fear. That’s a pretty good case for NOT risking new material in public, in fact. What on earth was I thinking? Well, I’ll tell you a story. Once, about seven years ago, I got an email from a mate who was starting a new cabaret night, and was inviting all his cabaret contacts to come and try out their work-in-progress, so I sent him a message saying I’d be up for it. I got up on stage and I played an instrument I’d learned to play exactly two weeks before, and I smashed it. It was the first time I ever performed solo on the ukulele, and it was the first night of the rest of my life. That mate was Dusty Limits, the night was Kabarett, and the venue was the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. If I hadn’t been offered that platform to try out new work I might still be crooning lounge jazz by night and working for a soul-sucking television company by day. Instead of which my ukulele and I have been all over Europe together performing everywhere from celebrity dining rooms to converted toilets, and it’s been one non-stop adventure ever since.

That’s what can happen when you let a performer try something new. And sitting in the audience for a show where EVERYTHING is new, and NOBODY knows what’s going to happen next – now THAT’s cabaret at it’s finest, even when it goes tits up… especially when it goes tits up.

Tricity Vogue, Cabaret Performer and Co-Curator of Cabaret Playroom (with Lisa Lee of UnderConstruction)


The next Cabaret Playroom is on Monday 3 November at The Albany, Deptford. Doors at 7.45pm, showtime 8-10pm. Tickets are Pay-What-You-Can, starting from £1

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

All the World’s a Stage for Teatro Vivo


Sophie Austin (right) with Teatro Vivo Artistic Associate Mark Stevenson in rehearsals.

Sophie Austin (right) with Teatro Vivo Artistic Associate Mark Stevenson in rehearsals on Deptford High Street.

Albany Associate Company, Teatro Vivo, transforms everyday spaces such as a supermarket or tattoo parlour into unconventional theatre spaces, working with communities to tell classic tales. Their latest work The Hunters Grimm is a promenade performance that will take audiences through Deptford, using cafés, shops and even the streets as theatrical playgrounds for the beloved tales of the Brothers Grimm. Grandmother-eating wolves and pompous Princes will be on the loose when The Hunters Grimm begins, starting tomorrow until 8 November. Teatro Vivo’s Artistic Director, Sophie Austin, tells us a bit more about why keeping community close is vital to their work.

‘All the world’s a stage…’

These words from Shakespeare’s As You Like It have always resonated with me.

I grew up in a small village where the local am dram company encouraged me to act when I was six and inspired me to direct my first play when I was 11, theatre has been woven into my life and is an essential part of my existence.

From seeing a touring company perform on the village green to the RSC performing at my comprehensive, I was brought up to see theatre as an inclusive experience: entertainment for everyone, not an event just for those who could afford it.

I moved to London 14 years ago and was lucky enough to go to drama school to do a directing degree – this was before the fees would make it impossible for someone like me to attend. When I graduated I set up Teatro Vivo. The aim was simple – to make magical and inspirational theatre accessible for all irrespective of income, background or age. This has lead the company to stage plays outside of theatres: from parks to cafes, museums to supermarkets, we have brought Chekhov, Shakespeare and Homer to diverse audiences across London, and in the last two years we have been touring our work nationally. I am always overwhelmed by the hunger of our audiences. Wherever we perform the response is the same: ‘more please!’

What can be frustrating is that despite our eager audience and the growing number of high profile partners keen to collaborate with us including the Albany Deptford, the Watermill in Newbury, and international company Dash Arts, our work is sometimes pigeon-holed as ‘community theatre’, and therefore not treated by press and industry in the same way that other productions might be. I’m interested to know when ‘theatre’ becomes ‘community theatre’ and why this title has negative connotations for some.

I am keen for our work to collaborate with the community, its venues and residents. This challenges us in many ways, but always strengthens our output artistically, whilst enabling businesses and locals unique access to a professional creative process. I am proud to create theatre in this way, but as it rarely involves a stage and often pops up in hard-to-reach areas, the mentality can be that this means the work is of lesser quality than you might experience in a Central London venue. I consider Teatro Vivo’s work a gateway to encouraging audiences to see more and get involved in more, and like my own experience, I want our work to be a part of the rich theatre tradition that is our British cultural heritage.

At the moment I am writing this at the Deptford Lounge, a library and community hub in the heart of Deptford, which is also the ‘Spinning Room’ for our new show, The Hunters Grimm.  This play will take the audience on an adventure around the dark streets of Deptford as they hunt for stories. This is the perfect place to tell tales of princes and kings, anarchic frogs and bloodthirsty wolves. And with themes of poverty, loneliness and love running through them, it’s a piece that will resonate with all who experience it.

I love my job and feel truly privileged to be embraced by the communities we are working in. The Halal butcher and the publican, the hairdresser and the cafe owners as well as the writer and designer: all are part of my creative team. I think our work benefits greatly from their involvement, but don’t take my word for it, come and join us in Deptford and see for yourself.

Sophie Austin, Artistic Director, Teatro Vivo

The Hunters Grimm runs Wednesday to Saturday, 22 October – 8 November, 7.30pm. For more information and to book tickets, click here.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Phillip Dikotla on the Skierlik Tragedy and its Impact on South Africa


In 2008, in the  South African settlement called Skierlik, 17-year-old Johan Nel went on a racially motivated killing spree.  In response to this tragic event, award-winning playwright/actor Phillip M Dikotla wrote the play Skierlik, telling the story of Thomas, whose wife and baby were two of Nel’s victims, as he returns to the scene of the carnage. This undeniably powerful one-man show, starring Phillip, is here tonight and tomorrow (16 & 17 October, 7.45pm) as part of Afrovibes festival.  Ahead of the performances, he delves into why he chose this difficult subject matter and his creative process.

When I started working on this project, it was an unconscious process of creation, where I was driven by questions and/or curiosity, and the more I tried to find answers and understanding in relation to the Skierlik event, which at first struck a lot of fear in me, the story wrote itself.

Because I am a performer and have always wanted to ‘act’ – which to me meant having fun and telling stories and making people laugh – I had disregarded what I now refer to as a ‘voice’…my voice; what I want people to leave with after the show. As Skierlik grew, I would interrogate each and every experience, and realized that there is something I want to say, and the more I wrote the more I had to say.

The more I travel with my mind and engage my imagination, the more I understand what this story stands for, what it represents in this new South Africa today. And more importantly, it is told by a young person – me – who has no experience of being a father. All the characters in the play are older than me, and have experienced life more than me.

I have a wild imagination and at first only visited Skierlik in my mind; by the time I actually went to Skierlik, everything was as I experienced it in my imagination. I have never met Thomas, but through my little experience as a story teller I realize that a character is not what is written, but what the actor experiences in the presence of an audience. So in a nutshell, I don’t prepare for the character. As a story teller, you can’t be prepared for an experience like this one.

Phillip Dikotla

Phillip M Dikotla is a 24-year-old South African playwright, actor, and comedian. An Arts and Culture Trust (ACT) Impact Award recipient for theatre 2012, he was part of the cast of the Naledi Award winning production Sekwatlapa 2010, writer of the Zabalaza Festival Best production Skierlik 2013 (Standard Bank Ovation Award recipient 2013, and Best New South Africa Script Fleur De Cap nominee), Nominee for best actor at the Zabalaza Festival 2013 and a Fleur De Cap winner for best performance in a one-man show.

Skierlik plays here Thursday 16 & Friday 17 October, 7.45pm as part of Afrovibes festival of South African culture. For more information and to book tickets, click here.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Albany Gets Infused with Afrovibes

The Albany is all abuzz this week for Afrovibes. This biennial festival is celebrating twenty years of democracy with South African culture. Our café has been transformed for the week-long festivities with Table Mountains, new tabletops and decor created by local primary school Tidemill Academy. Using South African inspired objects and artwork, the students spent a month working with professional artist Jack Brown. Lining the walls of our café, is an exhibition by South African photographer Tyler Dolan entitled Africa Inspired.  Both of these create the hub of our Festival Fringe, our own Township Café.

Come down to our Township Café for a host of free events and activities, including:

Mojisola Adebayo with Afrovibes artists 

Wednesday 15 October, 6pm: James Ngcobo, Artistic Director of Afrovibes

Thursday 16 October, 6pm: Mandla Bothwe, artist from Biko’s Quest

Friday 17 October, 6pm: Velile Sithole, artist from The Soil


Afrovibes After-Show Parties
Wednesday 15 October from 8.30pm
The Revivalists host with Deanna Rodger and Simon Mole
Thursday 16 October from 8.30pm
The Revivalists host with Ray Antrobus and Adam Kammerling
Friday 17 October from 8.30pm
Free music by The Soil and DJ Mr Gee 

Afrovibes Family Day

Saturday 18 October, 11am-4pm – Afrovibes Growing Up Club

Saturday 18 October, 12pm – African Folktales

Saturday 18 October, 2pm – Khumba

Saturday 18 October, 2pm – Instant Rap Workshop


You can even discover the tastes of South Africa with our Afrovibes café menu all week. Have a peek here:

Lunch 12-3pm

Soup of the day

Lentil Bunny Chow [street food in a bun]

Chicken Bunny Chow

Bobotie [South Africa’s National Dish]

Hand-cooked Chips with Mechouia

Sambal [Coleslaw]


Dinner 5-10pm

Lentil Bunny Chow [street food in a street]

Chicken Bunny Chow

Pumpkin Paptert [Maize Tart]

Hoender Pastei [Boer Chicken Pie]

Hand-cooked Chips with Mechouia

Sambal [Coleslaw]

South African Colcannon

Chakalaka [Bean Relish]


Malva Pudding


Afrovibes is at the Albany this week, Monday 13 – Saturday 18 October. For a full list of events, including free South African films and the main Afrovibes shows, click here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized