Shaken: A James Bond Cabaret is quite a unique take on a cabaret. A movie-centric focus, combined with a game-show theme, a healthy dose of comedy and 8 of the iconic songs of the James Bond themes. Charlie D. Barkle and Erin Hutchinson co-host an evening of ‘Which Bond is better?’ with the aid of their trusty Bond judging algorithm, sharp tuxedos, backing tracks and a box of props.
The audience was small on Wednesday night, but Barkle and Hutchinson gave us all their energy regardless. The show moves at a good pace, alternating between games show style segments of judging each of the Bond actors against their ‘scientific’ algorithm, and the two performers taking it in turns to share a selection of well know Bond theme songs, covering tracks by Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Gladys Knight, Garbage, Sheena Easton, Carly Simon, Tina Turner and Adele. The choices of who sang what were not always the obvious…. Barkle started the show with a cleverly arranged medley of the three Bassey numbers, followed by Hutchinson singing Thunderball by Tom Jones. Their performances were all solid – some good harmonies, no sour notes – but also nothing breathtaking. In my opinion Hutchinson did a particularly good job with Tina Turner’s Goldeneye despite it seeming to be one of the most challenging for her to sing. Alongside the vocal performance were a range of gags with props – Barkle dramatically ‘playing’ the Keytar ‘For Your Eyes Only, Hutchinson producing progressively larger globes during ‘The World is Not Enough’ etc. They were amusing, but certainly not producing anything resembling comic genius.
If you are a Bond fan, you may find the movie trivia and statistics supplied during the judging to be the most interesting part of the show. The judging ‘algorithm’ used factors like their retirement age, number of objects destroyed, number of kills and how many women slept with, among others to decide on the best Bond, then adjusted by some audience participation. I actually found the judging rules a bit annoying – losing points for blowing things up and killing people seemed very anti-Bond – my favourites didn’t get a look in. The statistics were accompanied with anecdotes about the films, reminders about the various plots and dramatic escapes. Some controversial decisions were made such as including David Niven, and his comedy ‘spoof’ version of Casino Royale. Surprisingly, the scoring system seemed to benefit some of the least known and loved Bonds. The statistics were quite surprising and did sometimes generate spontaneous gasps from the audience – apparently Daniel Craig killed 194 people in 4 movies (and that was not the highest death toll!)
Shaken did not strike me as a ‘not to be missed’ experience, but it was an amusing way to spend 60 min, especially if you are a fan of the Bond movie franchise.