Monday, 29 January 2018

Dramaturgy Rinse:Mike Raffone @ Artworks Elephant

credit: Charles Gervais

Lovers of Kitsch are sure to enjoy award nominated comedy performer Mike Raffone’s monthly Cabaret show Cabaret Rinse. Apart from featuring top acts from the world of comedy and variety, Cabaret Rinse also boasts a unique raffle.

Before the show the audience are each given a free strip of raffle tickets. Throughout the show they must compete with each other in a series of bizzare games to randomly generate the winning ticket number. And if that’s not exciting enough the lucky winner then gets to choose her/his prize from The Cabinet of Kitsch, a mock
conveyor belt of kitsch goodies that makes The Generation Game’s prizes look positively up market.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

With Cabaret Rinse I wanted to do something that could be a bit more anarchic than I usually do, I was always a big fan of the apparent anarchy of Tiswas when I was a kid. 

I was originally thinking of a sort of game show type thing, but that's been done quite a bit recently, but I knew (like everything I do) it had to have a heavy interactive element with the audience. I remembered that I ran a raffle in a comedy night that I used to run about 5 years ago. 

It proved to be the most popular thing in the show, and the only thing that actually made money. So I had the idea of having a load of stupid games and routines that would generate the winning numbers of the raffle, sort of a bit like the big song and dance they used to make picking the numbers for the national lottery. Only my version would not be as slick and bland, and would have the lotteries and gaming commission break out in a cold sweat. Also the prizes are kitsch tat, but people seem to love that as well. 

credit: Charles Gervais
That's how the idea of Cabaret Rinse was born. It was originally a show that I would mainly feature in, with a few special guests, but after starting to do it once a month it became clear to me that the other acts on the bill should take centre stage. It's a tall order to come up with an entire show once a month! So it morphed from a interactive show idea into a comedy night with a bill of artists and the raffle idea just holding the whole evening together .Actually, if I'm honest I'd say that the idea came to me in a flash of inspiration whilst walking down the street in Adelaide, South Australia when I was there for the The Adelaide Fringe, but I think these were the ideas that were brewing in my head.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

I'm not sure that the performance has ever been a good space for the discussion of ideas, we performers set the agenda so any debate has to be a bit one sided. 

I do think that it's always been a great platform for the dissemination and advancement of ideas. You could say that ideas are discussed as you can look at things from a variety of standpoints. It always says something and has value and meaning, I'm not sure there is any debate thought.

How did you become interested in making performance?

A variety of reasons really. I did always love

the fact that theatre said things about all sorts of things, art, politics, science, religion, the human condition. I found that exciting as a young person which sometimes makes me wonder why I ended up in comedy and entertainment. 

But then good comedy says a lot as well. I also have a shallow though, and have always reveled in the theatrical nature of theatre, the shear affront and arrogance of showing off. And of course I fell in love with actresses and show girls when I was young. I just decided that it was a world that I wanted to be part of wit all of it's amazing facets.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

Although my shows are heavily interactive and are not really overtly text based I do like to actually write the shows before I perform them these days, and I also work with a director a bit to refine the ideas once they are up and running. Of course it all changes when I perform it, but I like the confidence of knowing that for any show, but biggest problem is too much stuff. I find ideas easy, but I have to work at giving them coherence, and sticking to the point. That's the challenge for me. I also like to give myself creative limitations. 

For example for my one man comedy sketch show Brain Rinse the limitation was that every idea had to involve audience interaction and participation, whether onstage as individuals, or joining in en mass. I allowed myself to do anything, as long as I stuck to that one rule. I'm a great believer that it's impossible to fill the blank canvas without these sort of self imposed rules or creative limitations. 

With Cabaret Rinse, it was the idea that all the interactive ideas had to generate a number between one and ten in some way, again after that the sky's the limit. Of course what makes Cabaret Rinse different is I have to refine the whole evening, the sort of acts I book, what the running order should be, how many and how long the intervals should be etc etc. Not just the bits that I do.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

Yes, and no. Yes for all the reasons that I've explained, and no because for once I'm not the star of the show. I tend to so one man shows, write them, promote them, star in them, even do my own sound cues from onstage. 

credit: Charles Gervais
I'm a bit of a control freak. I'm an performing empire builder, a bit like Chairman Mao, except my empire is very small, and I'm not so mean. I also don't have a little book... of any colour, but that's beside the point. It's interesting for me though, to take a back seat and let the other acts on the bill drive the show. 

I actually enjoy having these great acts share the stage with me. I have genuine love, passion and respect for the acts that I book. Again it's creative limitations, this time applies to my programming of the evening. They have to be acts that I love, and then I hope that I communicate that love to the audience when I compere the evening.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

Well I suppose the obvious answer to that is that I hope that they experience laughter, but also a togetherness. I want my comedy night to feel like it's just hanging out with friends. In fact some to the club stalwarts are friends of mine and I have no problem in calling them by there first name and being familiar with them. 

I want them to feel like they are being entertained in their front room I guess... that familiar. I also love it when people tell me that they don't usually like audience participation but they loved my show. 

I try not to put people down, but encourage them to go further with joining in than they ever thought they would. Then they are rewarded as being the heroes that they are, and it becomes their show. As for the acts I book, I've always seen Cabaret Rinse as being primarily a comedy night for acts, like me, who are misfits, who don't fit easily into any genre, or circuit of work. Many of the acts are unknown, or have been given licence if they are experienced for trying something new, or experimental so I guess I also want the audience to feel the excitement of this edge, of not quite ever knowing what they will get, but trusting that it will be good.

A Star Trek toby jug, a Chesney Hawkes picture disk, a home burlesque kit and a nodding Buddha, are just some of the prizes that audiences have eagerly snapped up over the past few months. But it’s not all about tacky consumerism, there has been a lot of fun along the way too. Audiences have re created a Busby Berkely water dance, taken part in a human version of space invaders and played a classic party game with a role of gaffa tape, some sweets and a man dressed in a piñata costume.

Mike explains further, “We get some great acts at Cabaret Rinse, and they are all different and very original in their own way. I felt that just bringing them on in the normal way just wouldn’t do them justice. I wanted a fun, madcap, off the wall way to compere the evening and the eureka moment came when I was on tour in Australia. That’s when I hit on the idea of an interactive raffle and it’s proved a real hit with our audiences. Last month’s raffle winner was so chuffed about winning the 1972 Ed Stewpot Stewart Pop Pary LP, on vinyl with a double gatefold sleeve that she tweeted about it after the show. I think she wasn’t even alive when the record was first released.”
ny c) America

Cabaret Rinse is on at The Artworks Elephant, Elephant Road, Elephant and Castle on every second Friday of the month. Next show is Friday 9th February. This month’s acts include Malcolm Hardee award winning character comic Candy Gigi and Jon Hicks, star of the hit variety show Slightly Fat Features. Show starts at 7:30pm and the Cabaret Rinse pop up bar is open from 7pm. Tickets are £9/£6 concs and there is a £2 discount if you book online via

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