MadameGalina’s Ballet Star Galactica Variety Specialstruggled to fill Volupté’s voluptuous basement last Thursday night, although the same can’t be said for Madame Galina’s ability to fill a tutu. But, even with this larger-than-life attraction, ballet remains, perhaps, too great an extravagance in these tight economic times.
In any case, the upstairs bar didn’t suffer the same fate, apparently no one is yet so stingy as to deprive themselves an exceptional cocktail when they find one (and they are truly top-notch).
The ambience of the bar works too. Class meets comfort with a sense of decaying decadence. Oriental nudes lined one wall with an Escher-esque print while Laurel and Hardy silently suggested another by-gone era entertaining drinkers, discreetly, hanging on a large flat-screen.
The vibe, however, tends towards kitsch as you head downstairs for dinner and the show. The move costs a pretty penny too – £15 plus one course minimum order from a terribly mediocre menu. The price of this night, after adding-on a couple of cocktails, does start to rack up and raises a few doubts as to the value of the experience. Particularly since the dining, for us, fell flat, as the attentive and friendly service ultimately couldn’t reconcile the fact that the dishes were little more than well-presented. From over-cooked asparagus in the house salad to over-salted crab in the gratin, everything we sampled was, to some degree, disappointing.
Thankfully then, the entertainment managed to deliver some highlights. Madame Galina alluded to the Agony and Ecstasy life of a professional ballerina with originality of the first position: “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven: BUGGERY”… the audience joined in the buggery, as if emphasising the pain of her final pirouette. Ouch. Then there was her motivation for perfecting those wobbly arabesques, they’re not “for art” but “to let the Ketamine kick in…” I think, from this declaration, we may presume that Madame‘s ecstasy comes in pharmaceutical form, too! Finally, she excused herself as a “bloated ballerina” at the end of the first half, calling the interval in order to go and “have a purge.” Poor thing.
Leaping back onto stage in the second half, the ballet star showed her knack for dragging the audience into her routine, a skill she shared with a few of her fellow performers. Diva impersonator,Rachael Roberts, melted particular members with her rendition of Marilyn Monroe’sI want to be loved by you.Other than this though, I found her presence generally banal. Banality played its part throughout the night in another way too, with trivial in-house jibes and personal jokes that on occasion left me feeling lost. But on the upside, they did also lend a pleasurable informality to the evening.
My friend and I were the butt of more than a few such jokes. Particularly from The London Magician, who had obviously taken to heart a previousErotic Reviewpiece that had described him as “wooden.” He couldn’t help but express his irritation at this. He did, however, to his credit, manage to use his contempt to comic effect, successfully engaging the audience in quick-witted, if very dry humour. Unfazed by the mouthy assistant he’d picked from the audience for his opening card trick, he cut her down to subordinate size with a couple of well-placed sharp remarks. He managed to uphold this slightly conceited London-lad attitude throughout his set, executing his magic quite effortlessly, including his finale – a Russian-roulette stunt with four plastic cups and a potentially dangerous spike on one of the “mats” that sat beneath each cup – he was adamant that they were called “mats” in this review and not a “desktop paper spike“aspreviously described (a scientist of a magician when it comes to his apparatus, apparently). He violently crushed three of the cups without pricking himself. Leaving the spike standing erect on the table. To my relief.
The accolade for “wooden,” I award instead, this time, toSimon Bear– the biggest-bellied stripper I ever did see. His formidable form, I believe, holds the potential to create a really spectacular performance, but his wooden facial expression left his teases languishing in some far corner of the galaxy last Thursday, awkward and unengaging. Saying that, his costumes didn’t let him down–I loved ingenious suspenders buckled around his hefty calves and the full astronaut garb.
Finally, there wasJuggling on Tap, who bounced his balls a bit above the rest in terms of technical skill. A simple format: tap shoes, a coffee table and numerous rubber balls, which had surprisingly mesmerising effects. An incredible display of co-ordination, rhythm and dapper dexterity, even if he did drop one or two!
All told then, it was an enjoyable, laid-back, kind of night. It’s just a case of whether your purse strings can stretch to accommodate this bit of variety in your life?
Madame Galina: Ballet Star Galactica Variety Special. Volupté, London. 12 May, 18:30 & 21:30. £15 + one course minimum order.www.volupte-lounge.com
Photo credits: Courtesy of performers