Chelsea Cabaret – About

Chelsea Cabaret was our first opportunity to stick a lot of things together, on our own terms, and see what worked. We wanted to enjoy it, and for everyone we liked to enjoy it too. The word queer was bandied about freely, and we felt we had begun the process of forming a dialogue with our allies. Securing the support of Rubyyy Jones and Lavinia Co-op on reduced fees showed the faith people had in the project, and, on the whole, we walked away feeling pretty good about it. Social-media time is dense time, many leaves of a book flipping at great speed. It is easy to think that cabaret has been in the ascendency for ages, and that we were offering something conventional. But the familiarity of Chelsea Cabaret didn’t fool us. We knew the work we’d put into it to make it seem light, and that the development we were experiencing was the way of practicing together in relation to performance as a critical dialogue. Critical of expectations (subversive queering), critical of our own practice (labouring too much or overthinking), and critical of a socio-political context (the too-broadly-labelled queer scene, bleugh).

The bits that mattered to us most about Chelsea Cabaret as a work, were the details intended to please us. The bar running as a performance of its own, the banning of recording devices, the use of an awkward institutional space, and the invite of Dr. Owen Parry to un-contextualise the event (we effectively paid him to get drunk and lend us his title); all these and more developed from a growing idea of sabotage as a tool.

The cabaret offered us a progression of former work by instilling a simple and lofty mantra: If we’re not having fun, we shouldn’t be doing it. This was obviously not a straight directive, and continues to challenge each project after. How do you have fun, when each project is imbued with stress, precarity and a potential for failure?