The Private Widdle Social Club

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A household name in their hometown of Deal, Kent, The Private Widdle Social Club had its London debut at the Amersham Arms in New Cross on November 20th. Named after the flamboyant drunkard from Carry On Up the Khyber, the quirky revue exudes a captivating old-school charm with its mix of music hall variety, stand-up comedy and live music.

Stand-up is the predominant flavour of the evening. Widdle regular Malcolm Head offers a congenial hybrid of poetry and low-key character comedy, including neatly timed non-sequitur gems about homophobic cats, Harry Potter and Wayne Rooney. Sarah Pascoe proves a popular favourite, extending the shelf life of tired observational clichés about sexual frustration and ice cream with her relentless delivery. As the bill’s sole burlesque performer, Miss Amelia shines with a compelling Bride of Frankenstein parody, where the belle is brought to life by a deftly manipulated puppet doctor intent on taking advantage of his creation.

The show is shaped by the oddball antics of slurring host Paul Foot (of Nevermind the Buzzcocks fame). Spewing nonsense continually, the compère is an unpredictable comic powerhouse. Foot spends whole acts hidden conspicuously behind the décor, dances awkwardly with the audience and reaches epic heights of shamelessness with an escalating gag about sociopathic revenge against a B&B landlady.

While Foot is worth the ticket price alone, The Private Widdle Social Club also boasts excellent live musical accompaniment. Still a rarity in London’s variety scene, it makes the Deal showcase a laudable import. Sourced from underground label Smugglers Records, frequent guests include bluesman C.W. Stoneking, the Ukulele Gangstas and resident multi-instrumentalist deadpan trio The Private Widdle Light Orchestra.

Unusual material and a distinctive identity make The Private Widdle Social Club a fresh outing for amusing, unexpected variety. Its laid-back atmosphere benefited greatly from the spit-and-sawdust surroundings of the Amersham Arms (a comedy pub venue worth checking out). Whether that is always the case remains to be ascertained, but I can think of no better reason to visit Deal.

The Private Widdle Social Club. Hosted by Paul Foot. The Amersham Arms, New Cross, London. 20 November, 20:30. £10 (£8 advance). www.privatewiddlesocialclub.co.uk

Photos courtesy of the performers

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