Wine-tasting, accordion music, comedy and magic, along with the murder mystery of who killed her lover to solve, are all packed in to Anna Lou Larkin's new one-hour cabaret show Le Wine Club. It sounds like a lot of diverse material, but the show is in the safe hands of director Michael Keane, a current member of the West End cast of The Play That Goes Wrong! Originally scheduled for the VAULT Festival, the Le Wine Club can currently be seen at The Other Palace Theatre.
Originally from Glasgow and after several years in Paris, Larkin became a regular at Madame Jojos and includes the Royal Vauxhall Tavern and The Crazy Coqs among many other places in which she performs around the country. She is also well-known at the Edinburgh Festival and Brighton Fringes.
Here are some snippets she shared in an interview.
Anna Lou, your new show is an eclectic combination of many skills. I’d like to run through the various elements and find out how you acquired and developed them. Let’s start with wine tasting, in which you have a qualification.
If someone were to buy you a bottle of wine what would you hope it might be. Let’s do a red, a white and a sparkling. How do you feel about rosé?
Like many, I love a Pinot Noir. Something from New Zealand would be great. My absolute favourite whites have all been White Burgundy and if someone else was bringing it I wouldn't be so put off by the steep steep prices. Vintage Champagne, bien sur, for sparkling. Though actually British fizz is very exciting at the moment(shhh!). I think rose can be great, everything has its place. Naturally, a glass of chilled pale rosé can be great in the summer but there are also some more interesting ones that you might not want to hammer the ice cubes into and can be drunk at any time of year. Spain can be a great place to look for value.
Absolutely, and putting the two together I had a huge surprise a couple of years ago when I discovered a fabulous rosé in Extremadura. So we have the wine, you are the lady and you can also sing and play the accordion. How did learning to play that come about?
After leaving Paris and falling a wee bit in love with it, I was very keen to start busking but realised I couldn't pack up a piano, my only instrument, and take it on the streets. The accordion seemed the obvious portable solution.
Do you play any other instruments?
I'm currently trying to work out the kalimba I got for Christmas. A work in progress...
Well, no doubt that will provide some laughs and entertainment, but when were you drawn into comedy and when did you realise that you could be a success?
I started doing cabaret shows as a way of creating my own work- the satisfaction and ownership after years of touring with theatre companies was a real eye-opener.
And we’ll all need to keep our eyes open for the magic in your act. Did you study magic or is what we see on stage just a few tricks you have up your sleeve, so to speak?
Haha! My magic is basic and my sleeves are baggy, to say the least. I do enjoy finding new ways to surprise the audience.
No doubt there are a few surprises in the murder mystery. Are you a fan of crime fiction and real-life murder stories?
Enormous fan of crime fiction, more your early evening ITV drama (other than anything too sensationalist) and based on real life. I need a grumpy yet fair detective and a nice bit of scenery.
Well Poiret spoke French and you read French and Linguistics at Oxford and then went on to train at École Lecoq in Paris. Why did you choose that very distinctive school?
I really wanted to push myself outside of my comfort zone into looking at performance in a very different way from what I was used to. I hadn't worked in such a physical way before and I think it has really opened out how I approach things. And living in Paris is pretty great.
What else that is French influenced you?
I love a lot of classic French music and feel that the soul and storytelling of Edith Piaf has really inspired the style I like to work in. I think even the rhythms of the language itself can inform the work to an extent.
Now Piaf was a very superstitious person. I assume you are not, given that your director Michael Keane is in The Play That Goes Wrong?
Hopefully, Michael's finally gone right on something! I wouldn't say I'm superstitious but I still wouldn't whistle in a theatre. And I can only eat biscuits in groups of 3, though that may be something else entirely.
There was clearly no danger of whistling in a theatre during lockdown but how far did you conceive of your new show as an antidote to the lockdown blues?
I think there is definitely a question over how much people want to see the last few years reflected in the work they watch. I think I was very keen to go for something that was primarily fun and provided a certain escapism, though I realise that actually drinking wine and watching murder mysteries was very much my lockdown, so perhaps I'm reflecting it more than I'd planned.
Many thanks, Anna Lou, and we wish you every success with the show.