We find ourselves approaching Christmas with fearsome alacrity and I thought that it being the season of goodwill and good cheer, I would share a slightly lighthearted offering with you this afternoon. As the days grow cold and dark, so my various joints start to ache and it is not eased by the damp and my insistence upon dragging a suitcase behind me. For those non-cabarati among you, I thought I’d share some of the more common show-person injuries.
The first, which I have experienced many times, is ‘Fishnet Knee’. If you are prone to dropping to your knees on stage (or off!) when wearing professional dance fishnets, you too will have experienced this. The pro fishnet acts like a cheesewire and leaves a lasting impression on the fragile skin of the knees. When the bruise comes out, it is in the delicate diamond shapes of fishnet. Maybe for artistry, I shall rename this ‘Harlequin Knee’. Without fishnet, I believe that the term is ‘Stripper Knee’.
Second up we have the manifold burns from hotfix wands, curling tongs and even corset laces. Burns to fingertips, thighs, waist and I even met one showgirl who had grabbed her curling tong by the (still hot) barrel. It left a rather fetching swathe across her palm in livid salmon pink! Luckily for her, this accessorised beautifully avec her costume! Hot-fixing crystals to our costumes causes burns to fingertips and I’ve even dropped hot crystals on my skin where they attach themselves with molten glue. Utter ouch. I’ve given up playing with my wand and now I attach all my crystals with a fabulous glue called E-6000. If you haven’t ever tried solvent abuse, I suggest an afternoon in the company of E-6000 and you’ll be put off for life. Dreadful stuff.
Who hasn’t been touched by prop injuries? Who hasn’t fallen off the stage? Who hasn’t slipped on a spilt drink and hit the deck face first? I’ve sprained my ankles from negotiating dark cabaret audiences in super high heels, I’ve had cuts on my feet from glass walking and only a few weeks ago, gave myself a black eye with a gold topped, vintage ebony cane. No, seriously, a gold topped cane. I’ve seen fire performers with burns, bruises and even, the most hardcore of all, a snake bite. Missy Fatale, you win the award for most rock and roll backstage injury. Most fatal of all, is of course the dreaded and inevitable glitter lung, any one with any cabaret experience will know how glitter spreads like cabaret syphilis and once upon you, or inside you for that matter, you will never be rid of it. What’s more, you’ll spread it, unknowingly to your nearest and dearest. When I die, they shall slice me open and be blinded by the sparkle from my alveoli.
Suitcase shoulder is an injury of which most cabaret performers must be gloriously aware. You haul your glitter-soaked, unwashed props and costumes behind you in a huge suitcase, onto buses, onto trains, up and down, round and about, through the tube and all over cobbled streets. After a weekend of this, your pulling shoulder will be aching and sore. The pain will travel up your neck and down your back. You may get referred pain in your wrist. Perhaps we could all just perform stark, bollock naked? When you add to this, the ache in your feet from wearing heels and the ache in your ribs from lacing a corset and you honestly feel like an extra from Dawn of the Dead. Or maybe I’m just getting old!
There have been times, occasionally, when lovely audiences send champagne backstage, or perhaps a delicious venue provides one or two or five bottles of Tattinger, Bollinger or Moet, Oh My! These should be approached with absolute caution. I don’t know about you, but I am the most wretched hungover person ever. It will absolutely bitch up an entire day for me. Quel dommage, that champagne is so readily available backstage, front of house and in everyday life. Sadly, I’m not terribly Christ-like and I’m utterly lousy with temptation. I know that there are several other performers who are equally, if not more, dedicated to the champagne cause. This causes many headaches, both literal and metaphorical. Who hasn’t ended up stumbling around London, missing various parts of their costume, or more worryingly, their wallet or keys?!
I hope I have alerted you to the desperate horrors that we performers go through in order to bring our sparkle drenched glamour to the stage for your entertainment. So at this festive time of year, spare a thought for the poor Cabarati, those delicate souls buoyed by champagne and applause.
You can (and should) catch many of the Cabarati in ‘Cornucopia’ at the Palace Theatre, Shaftsbury Avenue, London on Monday 16th November. I’ll be there so get your tickets here.