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Review | The Cocoa Butter Club’s ‘After Dark’ ‘Shines a spotlight on the sensuality, strength and storytelling power of bodies of colour’

Temperatures soar in this sizzling cabaret show celebrating bodies of all shades, shapes and sizes

By Steve Brown

Words: Thomas Stichbury

When two women upped and left roughly 20 minutes into the Cocoa Butter Club’s After Dark, it served only to validate the provocative power of the adult cabaret show.

Perched uncomfortably on their seats in the aisle opposite me, arms folded, rigid as Rigor Mortis, lips pursed like they’d just been sucking on lemons, the ladies went walkies shortly after pole-dancing princesses Kitty Velour and Lauren Elise strutted onto the stage in skyscraper heels to crack open their magician’s box of gravity-defying tricks, twisting and twirling through the air.

Perhaps the final straw for our resident party poopers was the girls’ floor routine, which wibbled and wobbled with an abundance of booty-shaking. Or, when Kitty suffered a wardrobe malfunction and lost one of her nipple tassels – we’ve all been there, hun.

Either way, it would seem they missed the point of this teasing, titillating showcase shining a literal spotlight on the sensuality, strength and storytelling of the human body, specifically bodies of colour.

Hostess with the mostess and founder of the Cocoa Butter Club Sadie Sinner held the rest of the audience captive at Southbank’s Underbelly as she explained the origins of the company.

“We exist because performers of colour are under-booked and under-represented through no fault of our own. The people who write the stage plays and the screenplays didn’t grow up seeing bodies like mine in a positive light, and so we experienced pigeon-holing and typecasting,” she tutted.

“So, the Cocoa Butter Club exists as a place to have agency and autonomy in celebrating the capabilities of bodies like mine.”

Sadie continued: “Black bodies and bodies of colour can be sexual without being sexualised. Tonight, we’re giving it to you on our own terms.”

What followed was an almost hour and a half-long feast of fierce, flavorsome, full-on entertainment championing identity and difference, and dissecting ideas around sexuality and gender.

Drag star Wesley Dykes sent pulses racing by getting down and dirty to Jeremiah’s bop Birthday Sex (promptly added to my Spotify ‘bedroom’ playlist), while burlesque performer Rudy Jeevanjee gave Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman a run for her money with their whip-wielding, S&M-inspired set.

The foot was taken off the gas slightly when LAMS, a spoken word poet and singer with a voice as smooth as caramel, commanded the attention of the room with original tracks ‘Say Yes’ and ‘Mr Postman’ – who can stick his mail in my letterbox anytime – before putting the pedal to the metal once again with genderqueer drag king Majic Dyke; my only regret is not Shazam-ing the song they bumped and grinded too.

However, audiences might have reached the end of their wick with the final performance of the night from dancer Yasmin Chadwick… who has a penchant for pouring hot wax down herself. We hope they weren’t Jo Malone candles, what a waste!

The Cocoa Butter Club has long been a buzzed-about fixture on London’s queer scene – and I can’t wait to slather myself in its body positivity brilliance again.

Credits: Sloetry Photography