After April ending in snow — yes, the dessert topping of Christmas back again to ruin your Easter eggs — the sun came out over most of the UK this week, and gave residents a bit of hope that the three weeks that we call Spring might finally be here and surely Summer would follow.
Another harbinger of the future warm and sunny was the recent kickoff of the Udderbelly Festival and its twisted sister, London Wonderground. A cornucopia of circus, burlesque and alternative comedy acts, they run through July and September, respectively.
Wonderground will play host to the world premiere of a brand new show The Raunch this year. Created by cabaret legend Empress Stah, The Raunch is an electric Wild West cabaret in which a bombastic, sexy Western story is told through music, burlesque, dance, first class visuals and a soundtrack including an original song by Canadian electro-punk pioneer Peaches. (Peaches! Listen to the teaches of Peaches!)
Other acts announced for London Wonderground include the cult folk-punk-cabaret trailblazers Tiger Lillies, interactive anarchy from Miss Behave’s Game Show, impossibly stylish political-comedy-cabaret from Bourgeois & Maurice and for Americans about to fall in love with their first taste of the cheese-fest that is the Eurovision Song Contest, the infamous Alternative Eurovision, which makes the real thing look like a Ed Hardy road show.
They’re joined at Wonderground by East End Cabaret’s deliciously chaotic Club Perverts, notorious Hip-Hop Granny Ida Barr, cuntry legend (nope, not a spelling mistake) Tina C, and mixed bill madness from Friday Night Freakshow and Boom Tish.
Udderbelly and the Purple Cow
Have any energy left? Has your Aunt Joan had the vapors? Steer her over to Udderbelly, the more mainstream of the two multi-dimensional arts festivals. There’s beatboxing, sketch, even a range of entertainment for the kiddoes including the Electric Company-esque Showstoppers’ Fantastical Story Factory and The Noise Next Door’s Family Show. There are also more stand-up comedians than you can hurl a tomato at, including Sean Hughes and Jason Byrne. Not all of the entertainment is G-rated: for fans of shows like Drunk History, there is Shit Faced Shakespeare, and if a show calls itself Spank and offers “occasional gratuitous nudity”, surely it’s worth a peek into the tent.
All of this takes place at Southbank Centre – a must-visit on the tourist list any time of year. It is the UK’s largest arts centre, comprising three iconic (but concrete-y) buildings (Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Hayward Gallery) and some nice green space as well.
Plus booze, all sorts of food, a lovely Instagram-worthy view of the London Eye and Big Ben, and random off the list wanna-be artists creating quite the lovely atmosphere all summer long. For, if the giant purple cow is back overlooking the Thames, surely winter is over.
A former ABC National, Dallas and Atlanta radio personality, Martina O'Boyle is now making movies and covering culture in London, Dublin, and as far in Europe as the cheapie flights will take her, for Pop Culture Beast.