Clocktopus Cabaret: Night of 1000 Tentacles – Old Red Lion Theatre, London

Creators: Clocktopus Cabaret

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Cabaret has become a catch-all term for what we once called a Variety Show. In what used to be primarily a singing and dancing show, often with burlesque, has now evolved into a broader collection of entertainments, occasionally welded together within an overarching theme or story. Using the Lovecraft Festival as their inspiration, Clocktopus Cabaret has developed Night of 1000 Tentacles, a horror, sci-fi, steam-punk spoof with a mysterious connection.

Captain Bang Bang welcomes the audience aboard her spacecraft to undertake a journey through time and space to locate the last great unknown monster by the name of Keith. Accompanied by assistant Storm in a Teacup, throughout the expedition, a number of acts have been laid on to pass the time including a comedian, magician and burlesque performers, but before the show can end, Captain Bang Bang must find and defeat the dangerous Keith.

Clocktopus Cabaret’s show is a spit and sawdust affair that proves to be both it’s greatest asset and its biggest weakness. Its hastily thrown together feel gets the audience onside while Captain Bang Bang’s largely improvised role as compere makes her an engaging host. Yet the acknowledged lack of polish can be frustrating leaving a tone that veers sharply between deliberately wacky and something more closely aligned to Lovecraft’s interest in the supernatural.

John Callaghan is first to perform with his comedy act that cleverly uses passages from Lovecraft’s stories and sets them to the tune of well-known love songs including That’s Amore and even Jingle Bells. He builds a warm rapport with the audience, bowling around the packed auditorium in a blow-up suit, before a singalong finale of Lovecraft text to the tune of Three Lions.

Magician Chris Benkin is next, performing a series of psychological tricks that are the most enjoyable of all the Clocktopus turns. Using Lovecraft’s Necronomicon as his inspiration, Benkin first asks three members of the audience to name a month, date and time of day which we later discover seemingly pre-written underneath a tray. Next, a similar predictive trick using a randomly selected tarot card which he correctly guesses, before asking more audience members to arbitrarily select words from a Lovecraft novel and participate in a psychological test that results in a playing card selection.

A rather pointless 10-minute interval pushes the runtime from the advertised 80-minutes to about 90, while the audience is assured the best is yet to come. As it turns out, the best two acts have already performed and what follows are a couple of comedic burlesque routines that pretty much run on the same joke. H. P Loveshaft does a male striptease to an underwater inspired number while the final performer dances as an octopus pulling stockings from her tentacles. These are silly but never quite as entertaining as they think they are.

Ending in a sword fight and with the universe saved from Keith, Clocktopus Cabaret is a bit of a mish mash of ideas that doesn’t quite fit its own space-based storyline or entirely meet the Lovecraft brief either. Benkin and Callaghan’s acts are the high-point of an otherwise varied evening in the oversold and crowded Old Red Lion space.

Reviewed on 3 February 2019 | Image: Contributed

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A spit and sawdust affair

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