Right in the busyness and developing area of Vauxhall, the railway arches harbour eccentric, quirky and unique commerce. Hidden in one of those arches, lies a treasure. One of those places you find by chance, and you wish you had known about it before: The Back Counter Lounge.
Never judge a venue by its emplacement. Situated underneath Vauxhall train station, and opposite Vauxhall bus station, this hidden gem will surprise and impress you.
Home to a restaurant and a brasserie, the Counter Restaurant and the Back Counter Lounge stretch from one side of the arches to the other. Philip, the owner, likes to describe it as the longest restaurant in London.
Restaurant at one end (Counter Restaurant), and chic Parisian style bistro at the other, the Back Counter Lounge has recently added an asset to its scene: a monthly burlesque and cabaret show. This evening it was homage to Queen Elizabeth II on her 90th birthday, celebrating it their own way, it was more a tribute to all 'Queens' of the world, but more precisely London. And royal presence, we definitely had.
London has an array of burlesque and cabaret artistes, the only capital city in the world to host such a variety of performers and events. But maybe the reason to be wary of fake glittery shows that sparkle more than impress.
The Back Counter Lounge, however, has done its homework and has launched with nothing less than top end quality, in the world of burlesque and cabaret. Hosting the show, are two of the most talented, witty, and daring performers on the scene: Miss Ivy Paige and Dusty Limits.
Two names that do not need introduction for the connoisseurs of this world.
Ivy Paige is an international performer, artiste, model, comedienne and one of the best voices in cabaret. Whether I have seen Miss Paige in the West End, acting, or in the most illustrious cabaret as a singer and burlesque performer, or showcasing her talent of comedienne as a host or compère, she always seems to feel at home anywhere, exhibiting and flaunting her talent…! And she has a lot to flaunt…!
Tonight she reminds me of a Jessica Rabbit femme fatale, with her magnificent long red hair, her corseted bodice giving her the perfect curves, and her air of nonchalance, and penetrating eyes that entrance and mesmerise you.
The supremacy of Miss Paige, however, is her all-powerful glorious voice. From sensual tone to full voice, she interprets songs with her unique style, leaving the whole room in awe of her bel canto.
One of her strengths is, no doubt, her brilliance at interacting with the audience. Men, you need to be scared, very scared, for Miss Paige can turn from strict headmistress to femme fatale before you even realise. She banters, plays with you, turns you into her slave, and quite honestly, you have no escape if she so chooses. But enjoy the attention, for you will revel in it.
And this evening she is accompanied by another legend of cabaret : Dusty Limits.
Three times London Cabaret Award winner for Best Host / Compère, Australian-born Dusty Limits, is one of the most acclaimed burlesque performers of the neo-cabaret scene.
International artiste, Dusty has performed in the four corners of the world. Possessing a remarkable portfolio of events and venues, he has been praised for his creativity, directing skills, and his remarkable powerful voice.
Tonight, at the Back Counter Lounge, he filled the room with a repertoire totally suited to this celebratory evening. He lent his powerful voice to a mixture of well known songs, as well as his own creations.
But Dusty is much more than his mighty vocal talent. He is a witty, hugely experienced compère, whose presence and persona make him also an artistic visual act. What makes a pro at hosting any event, amalgamating it with his brilliance as a performer? The ease with which he interacts with his audience, no matter what goes on! The tales of the unexpected only fortify his natural talent and flair. And tonight, not only Dusty didn't get phased by a diner who dramatically dropped his glass of wine on the floor, with a mighty noise creating a pool of red gold, but he managed to turn the whole incident into a sideshow. Simply Fantastic!
Is there something in Australian waters that breeds talent? Bring it on, that's all I say…!!
In the spirit of new beginnings, the Back Counter Club introduced new voices to this cabaret evening: the Vox Vixens. In their debut performance, this fabulous quartet enthralled the audience with their powerful voices. Singing 'Sweet dreams' with no background music or instruments, their act was a jaw dropping moment, leaving the diners in total awe of their singing talent. And I'm not simply talking of their talent at interpreting songs, it is their creativity at making each number their own that will totally bewilder you. Any good voice could recreate a classic, but to reinvent it requires genius, and these girls ooze it by the gallon…!!
They have presence. They have power. They have charisma. This is a cabaret act with art…!
But this evening would not have been quite the same without the musical banter of Lord Hicks. His musical power lies more in his lyrics than his vocal tones. So, listen very carefully because this is an act not to miss.
A rather posh guy, and Oxford scholar, you will not be disappointed by his non-pompous musical talent. This royal-tea lover (or so I've heard) is not so much about RP but more about syntax. Indeed, his lyrics will bring colours to your ears, for if you are easily offended by rude words and sentences, better go find something else to do now.
Accompanied by his ukelele, Lord Hicks sends the audience into bouts of laughter with his innuendos and his parody of online dating. His tale of total frustration at not finding decent connections on social media has turned this modern age technology into a brilliant topic for this crude and yet polished oeuvre d'art.
Regular intervals throughout the evening extends the pleasure of this great entertainment. Rather than displaying the acts in a succession, the enjoyment is spread over three hours. A magnificent treat for those who love to prolong the joy.
I love that the performers are sitting nearby, approachable, sociable, creating a more intimate ambiance and a nicer touch to the whole event.
And if you are wondering about the cuisine, your palate will be as delighted as your other senses. The friendly and attentive team made the whole experience stress free, happy to help, ensuring that all was well throughout the whole evening.
All in all a night of gratification all round. But what better than experience it first hand..! Take yourself along for the next event, you will be charmed by this high class hideaway.
All Photography by James Drury
Note: BackCOUNTER Lounge, Vauxhall Station, South Lambeth Road, SW8 1SR. To make reservation, please phone +44 20 3693 9600
Nearest tube: Vauxhall.
More information on Burlesque Map London at www.burlesquemap.co.uk