For the third time week I open my post with the words “I did not know what to expect.” This time in relation to a night at Proud Cabaret in Kemptown, that lively and predominately gay area between Brighton Pier and the Marina. My hairdresser’s ex-partner is/was the manager and he recommend the show. After another excellent but rich meal at Le Bistro Nantais a show with my visitor, a French lady based in Liverpool, seemed a sensible and attractive option.
Booking a table proved an arduous experience. Online I was twice asked to give my age and eventually with the help of my visitor succeeded only in sending a message as to whether there was availability. A phone call elicited neither response nor even the facility of leaving a message. In the three or so years I have lived in Brighton I have learned this type of inefficient service is par for the course. The following day, no reply having been received, I called to find the tables for dinner were all sold out but we could sit on stools at the bar. I got the dreaded “I’m going to pop you on hold’ as the computer was very slow today. This reminded me of the sketch of the radio programme Loose Ends when someone from the programme rang British Gas and, every other second, said “My other phone is going, I’m going to pop you on hold’ to gain revenge.
On arrival we were obliged to wait outside. I don’t know if this was incompetence or designed to show the place is so busy, as they only have cabaret shows on Friday and Saturday nights. Worse, on being shown to the bar there was only one stool, a central pillar blocked the view of the stage, and there was constant passage of footfall to the loos and waiters and waitresses bearing drinks and food. It was going to be a uncomfortable night. The waitresses were dressed in a revealing corset nd fishnet tights They did not have the figure to carry this but nimbleness in tight space was the main requirement of the job
A singer sang a warm-up songs before the compere – a woman in a top hat and feather – sang, worked the room and introduced the acts. Dancers were obliged to change in the kitchen and were stationed in the overcrowded area by us. It was not the Crazy Horse or Moulin Rouge but the dancers were competent enough. One did a clever act with several hoola hoops. The audience was predominantly female so it was surprising that there was no male dancer. Most were loud and drunk. We thought one table of noisy and drunken revellers were asked to leave. When they did so we could take their table for a better view of the dancers who revealed more in their second turn.
The small venue did bear some resemblance to a pre-war Berlin Kabaret. If the place lacked a managerial grip it got by, as Brighton usually does, by friendly informal service and cheaper prices than London. For me the outstanding advantage was that, unlike London where you have to find a taxi and slog through traffic, we were home within 10 minutes of leaving the place.
Would we return? The general view was yes provided we could get a table. The acts were sufficienlty good and the ambience and atmosphere appealing.