Living in the West End is great fun but what’s even more fun is when you get a hot invitation to a decadent private view with gin support by the “The King of Soho” Gin Company. Tony Shrimplin, a volunteer and trustee of The Museum of Soho, approached me a while ago and told me of an amazing collection of 300 hand painted costume designs bought at auction by Charlie Jeffrey’s. The Museum of Soho is a registered charity that is not publicly funded and runs completely on a voluntary basis The drawings were originally owned by Elsie Birchmore the head seamstress of The Murray’s Cabaret Club which first opened its doors on Beak Street in 1913. Imagine being sat next to John Profumo and watching a turn by the legendary Christine Keeler clad in a sea of dazzling crystals and ostrich feathers. Or perhaps lighting Winston Churchill’s cigar, knocking back a whiskey with the Krays or brushing shoulders with aristocracy.
Ben Levy a curator and historian who previously worked at the V&A in their theatre and performance department is a gentleman I had met a couple of years ago. We both share a love of art history and theatre. It was only natural that both Tony and Ben should meet each other and low and behold…… Bang! They have created this wonderful exhibition.
Cabaret for me is one of the main heart beats of Soho. I have always been drawn to the clubs, costumes and atmosphere. As a past performer of The Raymond’s Review Bar (clothes on I’m afraid) I was very sad when it was taken over by the Box. I always wondered what had happened to the costumes and designs from its historical background. Today they would be extremely collectible and a real inspiration to costume makers and designers.
This exhibition is a must! Beautiful, colourful hand painted illustrations that give you a real insight into the glamour and opulence that would have graced Murray’s stage. They have cleverly sourced a few original costume pieces along with rare footage of cabaret performances courtesy of Pathe.
It was really magical to get a taster of just how incredible this venue would have been. You really get a sense of the dancers, orchestra and clientele. Murray’s Cabaret Club was truly an underground playground where behind closed doors all things stayed. It comes as no surprise that their touring exhibition is completely sold out. Life is a cabaret ole chum!
You can arrange a viewing and time slot via – https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-murrays-club-archive-exhibition-tickets-43433633166
The exhibition ends on the 7th April.
Words Celine Hispiche
Images Courtesy of Ben Levy and Tony Shrimplin