Evening Tube: Ten London Hotel, Resistance And Alt Performance Venues – Select Experts

The Glory, Haggerston

In deepest, darkest “Faggerston” lies the jewel of east London’s late-night alt-drag-queer-party-performance-disco world. The Glory is co-owned and run by the Bert and Ernie of drag, Jonny Woo and John Sizzle. Upstairs it’s Cheers meets queers, an East End boozer where everyone knows your name and your Grindr profile, and downstairs there’s banquette seating, arty performance and even some plays. We love performing here, it’s relaxed, it’s intimate, it’s loud, it’s our place to play and experiment. Shows happen through the week, with late-night performances from midnight at the weekend. If you’re looking for the most exciting and progressive mix of drag kings, queens, performance art and comedy, this is the place.
Chosen by music, satire and cabaret duo Bourgeois and Maurice

Soho Theatre

Downstairs at the Soho Theatre
Photograph: Richard Davenport

Soho has undergone so many facelifts in recent years, it has begun to take on traits of the ageing celebrity: plastic, shiny, hard to find the personality. So thank goddess for Soho Theatre, which has been bringing weirdos like us to Dean Street since 2000 and now stands as one of the few places to see first-rate comedy and cabaret in the capital. Its three venues sit on top of each other: a studio space above, a theatre in the middle and, down in the basement, a cabaret space – where we can usually be found. Late shows in the cabaret space start at 9.30pm, with a piano bar running afterwards on most Friday nights. Come for the shows, stay for the prosecco, leave when security force you to.
Chosen by Bourgeoise and Maurice

Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club

Sink the Pink at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club
Sink the Pink at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club. Photograph: Sink the Pink

Step off Bethnal Green Road past a tapas restaurant and a church converted into “luxury flats” and you wouldn’t expect to find a traditional working men’s club. It’s a proper sticky-carpeted, plastic cups of wine, regulars of 80-plus kind of club. And, with a balance of new east London nights mixed in with its regular activities, it’s thriving. We first attended a night called Britain’s Next Top Tranny, hosted by drag queen Fabulous Russella about 10 years ago. The contrast of what we saw on stage versus what we saw around the venue was magical. The nostalgia, and sensory overload, that a traditional working men’s club with heart and soul makes it, in our opinion, London’s best late-night performance venue. Warren and Charlotte, who run things, always support the newest, weirdest, most wonderful talents and nights. The making of our dress-up party Sink The Pink came from their trust and support when we were just two over-excited kids with a bag of wigs. From the long-standing regular night Coney Island (where dressing up to various classic movies is encouraged, music is themed accordingly and hotdog eating competitions are standard) to The Virgin Xtravaganzah and her variety show of the best of London’s alternative cabaret scene to the popular Disco 54 night, there’s something for everyone. London is so lucky to have the BGWMC.
Chosen by Sink the Pink co-founders, Glynfamous (Glyn Fussell) and Amy Zing (Amy Redmond)

Soho Burlesque Club

Soho Burlesque Club
Photograph: Soho Burlesque Club

Soho Burlesque Club – at the Hippodrome Casino – is a properly late-night cabaret experience. The show starts at 11pm and you’ll often see red-faced showgirls running across Leicester Square from earlier shows that didn’t run to time (me, every single week). Not only is what is happening on stage pretty glamorous, but the audience is often full of post-show cabaret performers letting their hair down. If you want to watch cabaret’s great and good consuming one too many glasses of prosecco, Saturday night at the Soho Burlesque Club is the place to go. And being in a casino lacking in natural light and time-telling devices, means that everybody stays out far too late. I once stayed out drinking there with burlesque superstar Dirty Martini until the early hours of the morning. I went upstairs to grab my bag so I could head home, sat on the very comfortable sofa in the dressing room and accidentally fell asleep. I was woken by the cleaners at lunchtime the next day.
Chosen by burlesque performer Kitty Bang Bang

Circus, Covent Garden

Circus, Covent Garden
Photograph: Guilherme Zuhlke O’Connor

Circus is really more of a dinner venue and it has fabulous pop-up entertainment until 11.30pm, but then the tables are pushed backto make the restaurant into a club, which is open until about 2am. The main feature is a huge marble table that doubles as a stage: people can sit down at it and enjoy their meal, but between courses the plates are cleared and you can see world-class acrobats spinning above your head from hoops suspended from the vaulted glass ceilings. You could find Le Gateau Chocolat high kicking along the table or, one time for a Circus birthday party, the management had a ramp built and I rode a tiny motorbike up it. It often gets travelling performers in, so you can see the likes of the Briefs cast up close and personal. The menu has to be the best food I’ve had at a cabaret show and its cocktail menu is to die for! I’d recommend the black angus fillet with this amazing caramel soy sauce and the lobster with white truffle aioli, washed down with a Carousel – a cocktail served with alcoholic cotton candy.
Chosen by Kitty Bang Bang

Hackney Showroom

Hackney Showroom - Leviathon Show
The Leviathon Show at Hackney Showroom. Photograph: Ambra Vernuccio

Hackney Showroom is a DIY space that hosts cabaret, live art, variety, circus and performances: from Lasana Shabazz, Plains Plough, and the Disco Loco festival to weird bits of drag. What I love about the place is that 10 years ago when I started out on the scene there were a lot of places like that about, when you didn’t have to work so hard to find a space to set up a show. Hackney Showroom is doing this at a time when venue space is scarce and prices are high. It’s a 70s queer utopia, like back when they were first thinking about how to create spaces like this, but Sam and Nina have come along and done it. You can go anytime and find queer and drag shows and emerging artists from Hackney. The crowd is mixed, you get the usual bunch who go to the all the drag and cabaret shows, but they also do £1 tickets for people on the local estate. It doesn’t have regular nights, so you have to check what’s on before you go. But you can always get cheap beer, which I love, hot patties and delicious ice-cream. I like that it’s a bit of a knees up – you can get your tea, then see a show.
Chosen by Scottee, asscociate artist at the Roundhouse and performance collective Duckie

Royal Vauxhall Tavern

Royal Vauxhall Tavern
Photograph: Royal Vauxhall Tavern

Unfortunately, queer spaces are disappearing in London, but one place that is still standing and remains the lynchpin of the scene is the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Every Saturday I go to Duckie. I’ve seen every type of performance you can imagine on that stage. Duckie programmes the most innovative live artists. I’ve watched go-go dancers, opera singers, drag kings, a sexualised re-imagining of the Nativity by Lucy McCormick, and this summer I finally got to perform on it too. I was part of Duckie Homosexualist Summer School and I got to MC our showcase as a terrifying buffoon called the Matron – dressed head to toe in leather, a huge tumour bottom, a mop for a head and eight-inch high heels – shouting and swearing at the Duckie audience; an audience of drag kings, queens, students, regulars and people who had no idea what to expect. It was fantastic. I would not usually feel confident enough to try that sort of comedy character at other venues, but at Duckie difference is embraced. It’s all about inclusiveness. I’m now about to launch a comedy night as the Matron at new queer space Her Upstairs in Camden. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to, or confidence to, if it hadn’t been for Duckie.
Chosen by Elf Lyons, comedian and writer

Paper Dress Vintage, Hackney

Paper Dress Vintage
Photograph: Paper Dress Vintage

When I first moved to London I was desperate to start a comedy night here. A chance encounter walking home one night caused me to end up in Paper Dress Vintage. It’s a boutique vintage dress shop and cocktail bar and is what Miss Haversham’s house might have looked like if she’d been brought up in the 1960s and had better social skills. A conversation with the barmaid and two emails later PDV became the home of the Secret Comedians (2012-15) and my late-night go to. The owners Steve and Hannah book an eclectic mix of music, burlesque and comedy and you can guarantee something off the wall will be on. At its Shoreditch address, the performances would take place in the shop window. The acts would perform amid the mannequins and vintage gowns and audiences would spill out onto the street. It was all about experimentation and doing something different – the Story Beast hosted a seance, Spencer Jones used the mannequins for a set piece, another comedian re-enacted the lives of the Brontë sisters using the old wedding dresses hanging from the ceiling. The venue has since moved to Hackney Wick and now has its own Twin Peaks performance space upstairs that still hosts loads of comedy.
Chosen by Elf Lyons

The Box, Soho

The entrance to the Box Club, Soho
Photograph: Glenn Copus/Evening Standard/REX/Shutterstock

The Box is a real experience, with its diverse, high-end and eclectic erotic entertainment. But with an A-List clientele and an exclusive guestlist be sure to wear your most interesting and most alluring attire if you want to get in. People go there to paint the town a very dark shade of red (they don’t go here to let loose – they go bat-shit crazy) and to be shocked and amazed by the intimate dancers, the beautiful staircases and the dimly lit, DJ-dominated dancefloor. The night will then take a turn and feature an incredibly powerful singer on one side of the room, followed by an airborne dancer on the other, and end with a performance.
• 11-12 Walker’s Court, 020-7434 4374
Chosen by fire performer and dancer Aurora Galore

The White Swan, Limehouse

White Swan Pub, Limehouse
Photograph: White Swan Pub

Limehouse’s gay micro-scene is a bit of a timewarp: snooker at the Old Ship, pie at the Grapes (Ian McKellen’s pub), a dip at Sailor’s Sauna and then the White Swan, which is open until 5am on weekends. Michael Barrymore came out, on stage, there in 1995 – I was a child in Melton Mowbray and can still remember my mum gasping at the telly! It’s a corner pub that used to have a large outdoor beer garden and notorious toilets. It had blacked-out windows back when policemen did raids. Now it’s been cut in half: one half is a tacky lap-dancing club with security men, and the other half is a gay club with an astonishing mock art deco interior reminiscent of an arcade on a drive-on ferry – the handful of lorry drivers included. Resident drag queen Saucy Sophie has hosted every week for more than 30 years; she’s like a living Cindy Sherman masterpiece and her dream is to live in Gran Canaria. Sophie’s one-liners are fatal. I once took an older ex there and she asked on the mike if it was a cast reunion for Last of the Summer Wine. Another time I kissed this boy wearing flip-flops, and she said his toenails looked like quavers. Amateur Strip Contest there is achingly funny too.
Chosen by Jack Cullen, writer and publicist for The Glory