If you want nothing more than that authentic cabaret feel, the Voodoo Rooms is the place to find it. Hidden in the speakeasy is a traditionally run variety showpiece with an exciting array of dancing, magic and comedy. It’s unlikely to win the hearts and minds of anyone not already smitten, but if you are then this is a guaranteed hour of entertainment.
Amber Topaz is the MC for the night (a replacement for Mister Meredith on his day off). She is sexy and charismatic, but initially has to work hard to get the crowd in the cabaret mood. There is a divide in the audience between those who have experienced cabaret before and those who haven’t, which is only overcome towards the end of the show. This really shows early on, with the burlesque act in particular underwhelming the room. Cherry on Fire does everything right and is magnificent, but has to really coax onlookers into the kind of heated frenzy that the best burlesque can trigger.
That being said a number of acts do win over the crowd, especially the absurdists. Dado lifts the audience’s mood very quickly with a hilarious and bizarre clown set. The joy that he brings with his weird ways is the most effortless of any of the performers. Idris Stanton takes a little too long warming up to his big finale, but it is a lot of fun when he finally gets there. His glam rock circus antics go down gloriously. James Phelan’s impressive trickery leaves the audience bewildered, putting the magic into Magic Faraway Cabaret, while The Establishment cap the night off with a ridiculously funny and surreal performance. If you walk in to the show expecting this level and variety of talent, you will not be disappointed.
Audience size is never something that the Free Fringe can guarantee. Magic Faraway Cabaret works best when delivering to a full crowd of rowdy reprobates who want nothing more than an all-out cabaret. In a half-empty room a hedonistic atmosphere is painfully lacking. Nonetheless, there is a lot of joy to be had soaking up a properly run cabaret experience like this, and if it is your idea of entertainment then you will not feel short changed.