Tom Allen, Bernie Dieter's Club Kabarett + new Soho venue Underbelly Boulevard - Mark Muldoon's Comedy Diary

Tom Allen

It can be an extra pleasure witnessing a hometown gig. For one, comedians may be keen to impress in front of friends of their parents, or people who were a couple of years above them in school or something. Alternatively, maybe you'll be gifted additional jokes about rival towns - a Nottingham comedian bonding with their audience via very specific insults about Derby, say.

So it is with Tom Allen then, on the first of a four-night run in Bromley - as presumably not every night on the tour sees him getting sidetracked by, amongst other things, a debate about whether National Express took over the local bus depot before then shutting it down (this, just for the record, is funnier than it sounds).

Elsewhere, the big news is that, having turned 40 years old, Allen has finally moved out of his parent's house and into his own place. So we hear quite a bit about the adventure of setting up your own home - garden maintenance, buying a mattress, working with tradesmen - alongside a fair quantity of childhood reminiscing, and learning about Allen's recent experiences flying Easyjet (I, too, was surprised to hear that Allen was still flying with the 'jet).

As you'd perhaps expect, Allen is great company for the evening, devoting a large portion of the show to jostling with the crowd and displaying a better-than-average skill for knitting together threads of his comedy into satisfying conclusions. It's the fun night out you'd hope for.

Bernie Dieter's Club Kabaret. Bernie Dieter. Credit: Craig Sugden

Nothing but respect for anybody trying to launch a new venue right now. Not just the fact that inflation is still running wild, or the threat of recession, but also London's comedy and theatre marketplaces are pretty inarguably oversaturated. Enter Underbelly Boulevard, then - a new Soho venue - taking over from the space formerly occupied by the Boulevard Theatre (cause of death: pandemic).

It's not phenomenally different to the venue that preceded it, but then the venue that preceded it was a lovely space that had the grave misfortune to open in October 2019. This reworked version is therefore simply 'lovely+'. It seems fair to ask substantial questions of the bar operation though: on our visit one bartender underpoured the gin in our G&T, whilst later in the evening another surreptitiously added 13.5% service charge to our drinks order without informing us, or giving us an option to opt out (a pint and a soft drink that should have been £9.80 was £11.12. We were also ordering directly at the bar rather than table service or anything. Underbelly Boulevard did not respond to a request for comment on this matter).

Bernie Dieter's Club Kabaret. Bernie Dieter. Credit: Craig Sugden

Still, if you bypass the bar and head straight for their entertainment offering, well it's fair to say that they're not pissing about. The next show set to run in the venue certainly sounds like an invigorating experience, but before that you've got Bernie Dieter's Club Kabaret, a twisted, pretty full-on cabaret show.

With its raunchy late-night atmosphere you could read it as a fitting tribute to pre-gentrification Soho. Dieter runs proceedings well, commanding her well-drilled band brilliantly and overseeing her gang of circus and drag acts with an intriguing maternal undertone. It's the circus acts here that impress the most (you'll struggle to understand how performer Bella Diosa does that with her hair), but the drag, music and comedy elements of the show are also effective. You'd have to say it's not a show that builds to a gigantic climax, but that's hardly a major problem. Tickets are a little on the expensive side FYI, though you doubt anybody's leaving feeling shortchanged. Plus hot tip: the £18 standing tickets look to represent particularly solid value for your more budget-conscious cabaret fan. But the show is doing this kind of thing pretty much as well as it can be done, so it's worth braving inflation and questionable bar practices to see.

Read previous editions of this column (including James Acaster, Rosie Jones, Off Menu Live, Munya Chawawa and Kate Berlant).

Mark Muldoon is also available on Instagram and Twitter. He's from Nottingham, so is always partial to very specific insults about Derby.

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