Really Useless Cabaret – VAULT Festival, London

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Devised by: Leoni Amandin, Rebeka Dio and Sinead Hegarty

At the top of their work-in-progress VAULT Festival debut, the Really Useless Group offer up some advice to the wannabe comedy singer/songwriter at the heart of their 40-minute show – “if you don’t make it by the time you’re 18, give up.” Fortunately, this new all-female troupe hasn’t given up and is here to present the very promising Really Useless Cabaret filled with quirky songs, tons of charisma and plenty of modern life angst.

The members of the Really Useless Group, Leoni Amandin, Rebeka Dio and Sinead Hegarty who devised the show together, use the cabaret format to take the audience on a brief journey through one woman’s heartbreak to applying for the creative role she has always dreamed of, or at least one that will allow her to use her musical talents to get a foot on the ladder. Part self-love modern rom-com, part semi-autobiographical journey, the humorous focus of the show is on the quirks and pitfalls of everyday life.

And the songs themselves are joyful and clever, evoking the spirit of the Music Hall by way of Victoria Wood. who is openly referenced in one of the numbers, managing to fit about 12 songs into the performance time. These range from a crowd-pleasing opener about the irritations of manspreading above all the other frustrations of train travel, the complexities of sexual confidence aided by the White Van Man and a great song about the unnecessarily confusing coffee menu in the local café where the protagonist goes to dream up her big show ideas.

There are some very nice concepts in here such as personifying the distractions of Instagram and Twitter who hand note cards to the heroine while she tries to work. Also, there are some smart underlying themes about expectations of female subservience as well as male microaggressions and sexism in everyday life that underpin a number of the scenarios which should perhaps become the primary theme around which other ideas circulate.

This is a work in progress so the Really Useless Cabaret does end rather abruptly, and the group could make the transitions between songs work a lot harder for them. In their present form, these are a little tenuous, increasingly so as the piece unfolds when the narrative of being dumped and leaving the house gets a little lost in distractions, personality analysis and sudden questions about sexuality. All of the pieces are there, just maybe not in the right order.

The basement of the Glitch Café which is hosting this VAULT Festival premiere is astonishingly tiny, leaving a tiny strip of staging that just about accommodates the three performers and their keyboard, but the group use this and the central aisle well to introduce a bit of audience interaction, of which there could be more. But it is so heartening to see the next generation of female comedy songwriters starting their career with so much to say. And as they develop this show into far bigger venues, this won’t be the last we hear of this very talented and, not at all useless, comedy troupe.

Runs until 26 February 2023

The Reviews Hub Score:

Not at all useless

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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