Chancery Lane, the heart of London’s legal community, is an unusual site for Volupté, one of the many burlesque and cabaret venues now found in the capital. The presence of semi-clad performers in a district most populated by the suited and booted speaks volumes about the growing acceptability of what used to be an underground art. There’s something about recessions that draws the civilised towards decadence (I’m looking at you too, Weimar Germany.)
Having frequented Proud Cabaret and had the champagne-spraying act of Miss Banbury Cross seared onto my neurons for all eternity, my burlesque bar was set high. Perhaps this was why Cherry Shakewell’s act seemed seedy. Without an innovative performance carried out with evident relish, a woman removing her clothes for the enjoyment of the crowd just feels exploitative. Perhaps the term ‘burlesque’ has been the emperor’s new clothes all along. Either way, serious sociological reflections are generally a sign that a show hasn’t cast a spell.
Prior to being escorted down to the suitably opulent salon by a seriously charming hostess, my date and I enjoyed tasty drinks in the upstairs bar. Effort has gone into Volupté’s cocktail menu, the cherry on the rim of which is a special bon bon section, designed for those with palettes that hanker back to childhood. My Toffee Tease (not a euphemism) – a butterscotch daiquiri with a strawberry bonbon waiting seductively at the bottom – went down quicker than a hooker’s drawers. My only complaint was it came in a martini glass. Although less pretty, I could have sunk a tumbler.
At £9 (cocktail prices range from £9 to £12 to £7 for shots) you might need a lawyer’s bank balance to drink these delicious mouthfuls all night. Still, if you find yourself in the area you could do worse than sip a swiftie.
Back downstairs, a three-course meal filled a hole but didn’t live up to its elaborate presentation. Also, it’s quite hard to eat when someone’s brassiere is flying off stage right. An unexpected highlight landed when the compere, Emma Divine, was joined onstage by a band. They proceeded to set off her full-throttled smoky jazz to perfection. A genuine talent with a relaxing form of stage banter, she is worth hunting down.
Had the night merely involved propping up the bon bon bar to Divine ditties, I would have gone away happy but the onslaught of different strands of evening was just too much. And as modern sages The Spice Girls sang: ‘Too much of something is bad enough.’ If Volupté wants to deliver the pleasure promised by its name; it needs to pick a specialism.
Live performances take place from Tuesday to Saturday at:
9 Norwich Street
Tel: 020 7831 1622
Image courtesy of Volupté