Friday, 9 July 2010

Proud Cabaret’s New Look

By Faye Armstrong

Is it considered weird to exit a party without broadly announcing your departure? I was informed by my friend Claire that my stealthy disappearance from such an event a few weeks back was seen as socially odd and had been a topic of conversation ever since.

In my opinion, reluctance to make a big deal out of leaving a party is common. Those who practice it wish not to create an air of mystique, but are rather just abiding by the assumption that none of the assembled gives a hoot about whether they stay or go, which renders any goodbye completely unnecessary. To loudly state you’re leaving with a comprehensive goodbye presumes that others care about your presence. For those who are the charismatic epicentre of a party, whose absence would be felt, this may be a truth, but for those of us who loiter on the sidelines it makes sense to make a peripheral exit if you only play a peripheral role.

And so, batting back-and-forth our ideas of what is considered appropriate party etiquette, Claire and I entered into yet another minefield of rules; this time not a friend’s birthday party but a showcase evening at one of London’s most treasured supper-clubs: Proud Cabaret.

Decadence at it’s very best, Proud Cabaret is a portal to a 1920s speakeasy and makes a point of dragging its guests out of their 21st Century London stupor into a sea of tassel shaking burlesque, cabaret, and jazz.

The showcase evening had basically been devised to show off the redesigned venue (what’s that they say? If you’ve got it, flaunt it?) as well as its principal for being: the updated entertainment.

I was seated front and centre (not my usual tangential spot) and as the feather yielding entertainment came at me I had to war with my primal instinct to commence flight. Staying glued to my chair, I was eventually glad to be so close, minus the feather-to-face incident.

Close proximity meant that I missed not a second of the show: hula, en pointe burlesque, scarily good dancing from the Globe Girls, and a drag queen cabaret act who performed Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’ better than the former Destiny’s Child star herself.

I managed to divert my eyes from the spotlight antics and take note of the venue itself. It’s dark and it’s obtrusively furtive. It’s a strange exercise in nostalgia for the days of Prohibition and yet it’s nothing like how a true 1920s speakeasy would be. The sought-after hideouts of that time would have attempted to be as inconspicuous as possible; a few chairs, a few tables, perhaps a few posters on the walls. These places didn’t want to be found, didn’t want to be loud. Proud is loud, and proudly so. It’s intemperate, with luxurious purple velveted booths, an expensive (well it looked expensive) wooden floor and heavy floor-to-ceiling drapes. The white linen tablecloths showed no sign of creases and the heavily framed mirrors reflected images of wrought iron screens and imposing candlesticks. The surroundings were as spectacular as the show itself.

A few glasses of champagne and more than my fair share of canapé tasters later, and it was time to leave. As growing up is all about building an arsenal of graceful moves, and no longer wanting my personality to be illegible to the world, I decided there was no other alternative but to smile awkwardly, wave my hand in a rhapsodic gesture, and mouth the word ‘bye’ to the congregated Proud staff. My reward was a jumble of sentiments encouraging me to “come again” and “don’t stay away too long”. I may never be the centre of attention but the nice Proud folk certainly believe that the peripherals - and all who occupy its space -are part of the bigger picture.

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