I’ve fallen hook line and sinker for a stunning new venue in the heart of Westminster
I’ve fallen hook line and sinker for a stunning new venue in the heart of Westminster. Opened in September 2012 with a sell-out production of Sandi Toksvig’s Bully Boy, starring Anthony Andrews, the St James Theatre on Palace Street is the first purpose-built theatre in London in thirty years. It comprises a 300-seat studio theatre and a very smart 100-seat cabaret venue.
Its success so far is surely owed to the clever programming, the smart bars, a superb restaurant and a central location. Robert Mackintosh (the founder and creative director of the theatre), together with David Gilmore, Lucy French and James Albrecht, seems to be on the pulse of what’s hot in theatre, music, comedy and cabaret – and being in the heart of Westminster they have the edge on political satire.
Upstairs, the main theatre has the best of the London fringe theatre, so look out for productions which could soon be on the West End, while downstairs the studio (pictured below) hosts an array of cabaret, music and comedy.
I went to see Lush Life, a drunken romp encompassing music hall, burlesque, jazz, poetry and pop. This was certainly an eclectic evening of varying degrees of talent hosted by (the disturbingly thin) Valerie Cutko, whose rather shaky start was redeemed with a powerful rendition of Kurt Weill’s 'Alabama Song'.
Highlights of the evening were the wonderful Lowri Ann Richards with her Victorian music hall rendition of 'Only a glass of champagne', and stunning Romanian comic folk singer Monooka, whose dulcet voice and endearing demeanour had everyone mesmerised.
Paul Ibell entertained with an anecdote and poignant poem about our favourite Royal lush, the late Princess Margaret, and the burlesque artiste Ginger Blush delighted us with a novel English-rose striptease. It made for a fun night out and at a tenth of the price of The Box, it’s certainly much better value.
I whole heartedly recommend a visit to this lovely venue, which is certainly a lot smarter than many of the down-at-heel theatres on Shaftesbury Avenue, so I’ve compiled a list of the must see up and coming shows in the studio:
Alison Jiear – Under the Influence (3/10/17 May): backed by a fantastic 4 piece band, Alison is an extraordinary and versatile performer.
The School of Night (4/5 May): a music and comedy improvisation group with Alan Cox who make up poems, stories and songs on the spot in Shakespearean English.
Helen Lederer asks…WTF (Why the Fuss) (9 May-6 June): television star who specialises in existentialist comedy.
ShooShoo Baby – Off the Scale (11 May): hilarious, slick and musically stunning cabaret duo.
Lucy Porter (May 16): beautiful, funny stand-up comedian.
Kate Dimbleby – Beware of Young Girls: The Dory Previn Story (18/19 May): a classy show about Andre Previn’s first wife.