St James' Studio, London
Appearing as part of the (now ended) London Festival of Cabaret, Sarah-Louise Young's latest cabaret manifestation is a set entitled La Poule Plombée. Literally translated it means the "leaded hen", which offers a sardonic contrast to Edith Piaf's "little sparrow" (and of course sounds appetizingly like flambé too). However, Google a little deeper and one finds that Poule can also refer to a floozy or tart (human rather than pastry). And then remember that Young famously describes herself on Twitter as Cabaret Whore...
In this show however, Young is the very essence of pastiche as she dons the persona of an angst-filled chanteuse. Affectionately and perceptively mocking the chic French-diva genre, hers is no Piaf tribute gig.
A consummate professional, Young’s mask does not slip throughout. There may not be any personally revealing anecdotes here, but the 4th wall is cunningly and repeatedly breached as she rips up the entente cordiale with some deliciously credible swipes at British culture.
Young also brings an entertaining even if depressing mania to her act. Arriving on stage brandishing a large butcher's knife, the melodrama is played to hilarious effect - the knife gag leading into a song about a traumatised butcher's daughter, whose pet pig is slaughtered by her father. Nice.
Other numbers touch upon the Little Black Dress as well as an affectionate play on the word Encore that closes the set, keep the wit razor sharp while occasional moments of audience participation are managed perfectly by Young who never once lets good-humoured embarrassment slip into rank humiliation.
With musical director Michael Roulston as deeply immersed in playing a supporting role as Young, the pair's banter may lack spontaneity, but it is polished to perfection. Young's mastery of the genre is up there with the best and it is a real treat to be offered a show that is so distinctly original.