“Biddie” in Cabaret
Crazy Coqs, Brasserie Zedel, 20 Sherwood Street, London W1F 7ED for one night only. 13 February 2019.
Runs 1hr 50 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7734 4888
Review: William Russell 13 February
A master raconteur and singer of songs
Theatre takes many forms and occasionally one likes to venture into other fields – cabaret is one, and James Biddlecombe, making his debut at Crazy Coqs, seemed a good reason for doing so. He is a vastly experienced performer who was in total command of his audience right from the start – aided, it has to be said, by his long time, probably long suffering, accompanist Chris Marshall. London’s cabaret scene is flourishing, is an alternative good night out for anyone in town, and Crazy Coqs, a marvellous circular art deco room which lurks in the Brasserie Zedel in a side street off Piccadilly Circus, is one of the best.
“ Biddie”, as he is known, making his debut there, was in command of the packed out room right from the start and launched into a programme of songs old and new and differentt. He did Marlene, but not for him the easy way out of Falling in Love Again yet again. Instead, with an aside pointing out that it may soon be like that again, we got Black Market from A Foreign Affair, Billy Wilder’s 1948 film about post war Berlin. It was an evening of something old, something borrowed, something new and something a little bit suggestive.
He opened with a show business lament that he had been in everything but Cats, followed it with a sentimental ballad, the staple of revue artistes, called My Heart Tells Me, before launching into the horror of Italian travel and the nightmare of La Bella Musica. So it went on. Having started the evening in a plum coloured evening jacket with a pearl drop brooch in the lapel worn over a gold brocade waistcoat, after the interval we got the full Biddie – white dinner jacket and more rhinestones that even Liberace would have ventured to wear. The delights included Joleen telling Maureen how to keep her man, learning how to Peel Me a Grape, how Big Bad Bill, tyrant of the range, became Sweet William, and a closing number written with Marshall to send everyone out into the night sore from laughing abut the shape of things to come.
Cabaret is a tricky genre, the performer is alone, no supporting cast to provide breathing space, and the audience is invariably sitting there daring the person on stage to make them laugh. Enough to say that, while he has not played this room before Biddie has played many others, so he took no prisoners, and delighted the audience, into which he ventured from time to time, especially the lady wearing a diamante collar almost the duplicate of his own.
James “Biddie” Biddlecombe