Bernie Dieter’s Club Kabarett at Underbelly Boulevard review: enjoyably in-your-face

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Five minutes into Bernie Dieter's Club Kabarett and the compere is in the stalls and has a man stroking her fishnet-clad thighs. It sets the tone for a show that is decidedly intimate and enjoyably in-your-face.

If you've never experienced contemporary cabaret before, this is a decent gateway. The new Underbelly Boulevard is a plush, cosy theatre with the performers plying their trade in the round. Perfect sightlines means nobody misses a trick or any of the skimpily costumed performers' buttocks.

Dieter previously fronted La Clique and is a formidable MC. Dressed in black with a severely chopped bob and a velvet voice, she could have strutted direct from a 1930s Berlin club, which is the subversive mood the show strives for. Escapism for what Dieter, with a degree of understatement, calls "scary times".

The budget clearly wasn't blown on costumes. Opening act Blue Phoenix sports little more than a few studded leather straps with a micro-thong keeping his assets secure. Phoenix was Mr Pole Dance World 2022 and you can see why as he defies gravity shimmying up and down in vertiginous heels. It's a strong, seductive start.

These post-circus shows, from Cirque Du Soleil to La Clique are so ubiquitous now though you have to bring something new to the party to make a real impact. Apart from an overt sense of camp this is where Club Kabarett falls down. No scene-stealing contortionist like Captain Frodo, no death-defying roller duo like The Skating Willers.

The line-up here is supremely skilled but hardly groundbreaking. Bella Diosa is a striking fire-eater who performs so close to the crowd she could toast your crumpets. Trapeze artist Adam Malone adds a bondage vibe to impressive balancing stunts.

The second half featured Diosa again, now hanging from her hair and spinning at a dizzying speed. This certainly livened things up, particularly as she swung over the crowd. Aerialists The Seifert Sisters added grace and artistry as they intertwined mid-air.

Acrobat Joe Keeley left the audience on a high with a classic silk act, first coiled into the material then building to a spectacular death drop, halting inches from the stage.

Club Kabarett entertains, it just lacks a magic ingredient. The real standout is the venue, a terrific addition to London's live circuit. There will undoubtedly be more distinctive shows here, though maybe none with as many bare buttocks.

Underbelly Boulevard, to January 6; buy tickets here