If your idea of a dream night out is Arthur Smith clad as Dionysus introducing a dozen female chanteuses singing medieval acapella songs while drinking beer, then, believe it or not, I have the very thing for you. The wacky club Nux Vomica - named after "a cure for stressed puppies, irritable cats and hangovers" - is presenting a Pagan Bacchanalian Frolicking Cabaret tonight.
The bill was put together by producer Sophie Seashell, a French former stripper and bassist with punk band Half French, Half Togolese. As well the aforementioned Medieval Babes ("an all-singing, 12-strong musical troupe devoted to bringing the sounds of the swinging 1360s to our audience"), it features The Fabulous Fez, an act sending up Morris dancing, Paddy's Uncensored Cabaret, "a veteran of soul and psychiatric disorder", and Attila the Stockbroker's Barnstormers, "a band which mixes surrealist poetry and songs, love and anger in a trashy Renaissance way". A bill this eclectic clearly needs a compere of Arthur Smith's calibre.
According to Seashell, who is truly one of life's originals, the idea behind the performance is to mark the end of winter. "It's an old Pagan tradition," she observes. "It's like Easter, but later. Everyone wants to celebrate longer days, when everything's changed and new."
Nux Vomica is making a speciality out of these rather outre evenings - at their last one to mark Valentine's Day, all the artists performed in drag. "The original idea was to re-create the spirit of the Berlin cabaret of the 1930s. We're a modern version of that," explains Seashell, who is planning to appear as The Green Muse tonight. "I was a bit bored. Other clubs were too nice. I wanted to push the preconceived barriers of morality - mix things up a bit. It's playful rather than self-indulgent and navel-gazing. Some artists don't get the chance to perform anywhere but with us. It's the punk spirit of not being PC or following rules about being this or that. People can't pigeonhole us."
EYE ON THE NEW
The accomplished San Francisco stand-up Arj Barker is in this country for a spring tour. Worth seeing if only because he overturns the stereotype that Americans wouldn't know irony if it ran them over. Jongleurs Battersea (0171-924 2766), Bearcat Comedy Club, Twickenham, Middx (0181-891 1852) both tonight; Comedy Stage, Oxford (01865 250099) Mon; Rubber Chicken, Blackburn (01254 582582) Wed; Ha Bloody Ha, Ealing Broadway (0181-566 4067) Thur; Comedy Store, London (01426 914 433) Thur, Fri