• Gabriel Featherstone

“Freaks, Geeks and Uniques”: Glasgow’s Longest-Running Alternative Cabaret Needs Your Help

Spangled Cabaret is a beloved fixture of Glasgow’s alternative cabaret landscape. Founded in 2008 by Paul Puppet - an effervescent song-and-dance man who often sports a glorious Salvador Dali moustache - Spangled is now based at The Blue Arrow Jazz Club on Sauchiehall Street, where it has dazzled and delighted patrons for three years. Puppet, whose civilian name is Paul Ross, describes his night as being “an anything goes monthly variety night, focussing on the alternative. We champion the freaks, geeks and uniques; the harder to pigeonhole acts and the acts that might not fit in elsewhere.”

Featuring a colourful revolving door cast of burlesque dancers, drag queens, performance artists, musicians, comedians, magicians and more, Spangled provides an invaluable platform for performers to innovate and experiment with unique and original ideas.

“It started at the Rio Café in Partick in 2008”, says Paul. “I’d started booking events at the Rio Café and I thought an oddball anything goes night seemed like a good fit. A Monday night in a boozer where you could see live music, burlesque, poetry, performance art, comedy, drag etcetera was completely unheard of before that, certainly in Partick.

Dharma Geddon. Photo by Alan Davie

“There were only a few cabaret and burlesque shows happening at the time and they were all ticketed events in venues. For an alternative variety night to happen in a pub where anyone could walk off the street and not know what they were getting was even more dangerous and exciting than it is now."

The ongoing pandemic has forced Spangled to abandon its live shows and focus exclusively on livestreamed gigs. “We’ve had over a thousand views for each one”, says Paul. “A lot of those are people who’ve never been to the show in the real world and have said they definitely will in the future. We’re reaching a lot of people. The downside is not many people are donating. Apart from that, it’s working a lot better than anticipated.” Although the livestreams have been popular, Spangled Cabaret, and other shows like it, are now in a very precarious situation. Paul said: “The future for all events of a smaller size is unclear. It depends how long this goes on for and whether the government helps the grassroots venues. It could be that only larger companies and venues will come through this.

Markee De Saw. Photo by Amy Irene Marquez

“It’s been quite a wake-up call because something we thought was amazingly robust is now teetering on the edge of certain doom. We’re all trying new ways of doing things, but the question always comes up: ‘what is a show without a physical audience?’ People who are full-time performers are faced with the harsh reality of being flung back into the slog and grind of the day jobs they’ve worked so hard to remove themselves from.”

The Spangled Cabaret livestream takes place monthly on the official Spangled Cabaret Facebook page. It's a classy and anarchic antidote to the lockdown blues. This noble band of neo-vaudeville weirdos deserve enormous praise and support for defiantly keeping the show running during these bleak and tumultuous times.

More information can be found here -https://www.facebook.com/spangledcabaret

Monsieur Pompier and his Fabulous Freaks. Photo by Stefan Evans