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The place is legendary – atmospheric pub complete with garden terrace
by day, drag cabaret extravaganza by night. There’s
more to the Black Cap than meets the eye – and if you’ve
ever wondered what lies behind that inconspicuous black door
next to Boots on Camden High Street, here’s your chance
to find out.
Legend has it that the site of the black cap was occupied
by witches in the 16th century and acts of torture took place
here. Four centuries later, the Black Cap is now one of the
best-known drag cabaret venues and is still home to a fairly
bitchy array of characters. Celebrated performers include
Lily Savage (who got her start here), Julian Clary and Graham
Norton. “We used to have cabaret every night of the
week, but now it’s down to three: Tuesday, Fridays and
Sundays,” says assistant manager Wayne.. The acts could
be anything from a live drag show to a game quiz or performers
who sing a few numbers. Recently its Sandra on Tuesdays, Dave
Lynn on Sundays and on Fridays we feature new acts, usually
performer Sandra has worked at the Black Cap for 20 years.
She describes her act as “mad, zany, filthy, disgusting.
I’m like a black version of Ruby Wax.” Sandra’s
sassy sense of humour works off audience participation. “The
audience varies, I’ll be honest with you, “ she
confides, mock seriously. “If you get a predominantly
straight crowd come in they’re like… (mouth agape).
I don’t know if its because they’re shocked or
that I look better than their wives or girlfriends –
you can never tell. Either way, they’re usually very
receptive to us.”
Sunday night resident Dave Lynn is originally from the Brighton
Circuit and has won countless awards for his show, including
the Golden Handbag’s “Favourite Entertainer”
award and Boy magazine’s “best drag act”.
Dave’s verbal banter is shockingly entertaining –
even old hand Eric the barman is tickled by his innuendo.
Dave has also appeared in Channel Four’s “Faking
It”, helping a military man convince judges that he’s
a natural queen.
The Friday night I show up, a duo act by the name of “Trashville
Tennessee” are about
to perform. Offstage they are Andrew and Wesley – two
Portsmouth boys who trained in performance arts before making
it on the circuit. After an hour of piling on the glitter
make-up, donning the sequinned frocks and 5-inch heels, they
become Dolly and Cassidy – our hostesses in their vibrant
world of middle America trailer trash who may (or may not)
sleep with animals.
Wesley/Cassidy elaborates on their stage show. “It
tells a story – we do impersonations of celebrities
who have visited Trashville like Lisa Minelli, Judy Garland,
Cher, Diana Ross and Elton John…” Andrew/Dolly
interjects: “We rewrite words to a lot of pop songs
and almost comment on the original singers. For one show we
re-did Will Young’s ‘Evergreen’ to ‘Vaseline’.
We sing anything from show music to pop to gospel to rap –
there’s no particular genre we take from.”
When they take to the stage, the crowd starts dancing to
their version of Abba song ‘Gimme, Gimme, Gimme’,
rewritten so it’s a drug they want before midnight and
not a man.
The Black Cap: 171 Camden High Street. Map ref: E14