CabaretComedyLive StreamOnlineReview

Sarah-Louise Young: Cabaret Whore – Phoenix Arts Club

Reviewer: Helen Tope

Streamed live from the Phoenix Arts Club, Sarah-Louise Young: Cabaret Whore has been performed in New York, London and the Edinburgh Fringe. Young has developed her brand of award-winning comedy through a number of self-created characters. These personas – larger than life but instantly recognisable – are the driving force behind Cabaret Whore.

 Working with her songwriting partner, Michael Roultson, Young articulates her characters’ stories through song. The lyrics are fiercely funny, with a sharp, caustic wit. In Young’s first persona, a leopard-print-clad Country singer called Sammy Mavis Jnr, we are treated to a rewrite of the Oleta Adams classic, Get Here. The songs in Cabaret Whore allude to the character’s preoccupations, and this is no exception. Trading the line “there are hills and mountains between us” for “there are miles and miles of penis”, it’s pretty clear what’s on Sammy’s mind.

While the comedy sits firmly in the ‘adult’ category, Young’s characters still manage to elicit an emotional response. Young’s second character – Kasia from Eastern Europe – wins our hearts with the insanely catchy Life is Like a Ukulele. Part Eurovision, part Eurotrash – Kasia’s penchant for oversharing makes her an instant hit with the online audience. In Please Don’t Hand Me Your Baby, she is equally funny, but the humour becomes darker, as Young allows her character to voice the subversive and taboo thoughts we all have. This is a theme that runs throughout the show, and despite Cabaret Whore being written pre-pandemic, it really finds its groove in using comedy as a release valve. When viewed from this angle, Young’s show is practically performing a public service.

Cabaret Whore rounds out with two characters: Bernie Sinclair and La Poule Plombee, and Young uses her knowledge of the cabaret world to expand the humour into a self-referential, meta experience. Bernie (a self-proclaimed “Diva of a Certain Age”) gives us big songs and overdone accessories. Her career isn’t what it used to be, but this composite of leading ladies (think a wickedly sharp take on La Pone / Paige / Minnelli) has plenty to say about the disposable nature of women in theatre.

As the headline act, La Poule Plombee is the Truffaut starlet who has found herself on the cabaret circuit. Dressed head to toe in black, La Poule does the emotional heavy-lifting of the show. Proclaiming that “the critics mock, but I persist”, Young’s charismatic chanteuse slips from solid comedic performance into knowing asides, purely for our benefit. La Poule Plombee (roughly translated as “Frumpy Pigeon”) is brooding, melancholic and utterly fascinating. It’s not surprising that La Poule will be getting a solo show later this year.

With closely-observed comedy and a killer song-list, Cabaret Whore has been performed to sell-out crowds with good reason. Young’s formula of melding black comedy, with lovingly-detailed characters, works brilliantly. This is a show where all the elements come together, and it’s simply flawless.

Reviewed on 19 March 2021

The Reviews Hub Score

Character-filled cabaret

User Rating: 4.68 ( 2 votes)

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