Life is a cabaret, старый друг

When Wimple* clambered drunkenly onto a table and scattered the place settings as he danced, and with the man-mountain moving in again, it was clearly almost time to go.

This was unfortunate, because up until that point – and barring Wimple’s earlier interjections – Thursday evening’s Russian cabaret performance had been fantastically entertaining. And not even in the “so bad it’s good” way I was expecting. Well, not completely.

The Bolshoi Restaurant in the Moscow Hotel is not, at first glance, a likely venue for a good night out. Coming out of the OTT opulence of the main lobby and staircase (think faux-marble-and-gold trim), still free of the ladies of negotiable affection at the early hour of 10pm, you enter the Bolshoi to be confronted by a long oblong room, with a buffet at one end, a bar/serving counter at the other, and a square wooden dance floor in the middle, with an alcove behind it.

Possibly the best way of describing it is a cross between a hotel conference room, a cruise ship restaurant, and that place out of Eastern Promises, as Austyn – the evening’s instigator – unsettlingly pointed out.

When we arrived, the alcove was filled with a three-piece band attempting some Slavic-style Kenny G, and the restaurant was empty. It looked a bit like this:

Doubts formed.

Then people turned up, led by Princess and other nice PR girls, non-Russian-Dimitri, Ali,  and his friend Wimple, who was introduced as a web-content-digital-stuff guru. From the start, he reminded me unsettlingly of Piers Morgan.

Doubts continued to form. Specifically about Wimple.

Then the cabaret started:

I am not a fan of musical theatre, dance, ballet, or High School Musical, but… this was actually ENTERTAINING. In a fantastically kitsch, surreal, sitting-in-a-Dubai-dive-hotel-watching-girls-in-tights way, to be sure, but genuinely entertaining.

The dancers were smiley, enthusiastic, and really rather good. You can even see a bit of the girls in action here. In typical fashion, I managed to catch only the very end of the routine on camera, but never mind.

They went from feather head-dresses to sparkly silver, to diaphanous bed-wear for a Katy Perry number, all the way through to sexy-secretary, almost-raunchy leather and vinyl, and 18th century Imperial finery, complete with gowns, masks and a fake poisoning. Amazingly, everything was extremely family-friendly. I guarantee you’d see worse in a Britney Spears video.

In between the numbers the band, now with some of the girls singing, would come back on to take requests and inspire a little bit of dancing from the now-capacity crowd. Along with the mostly Russian numbers were a few, ahem, classics, such as this:

(The blurred people are subjects who were a bit shy about being seen to dance to bad Eagles covers in public. Fair enough.)

The other guests were mostly Russian, with a few Khaleeji men showing up later in the night. The table next to us, though, was very Russian indeed, right into the “we’ve had people killed, and/or own this hotel” level:

An early indicator was the waitress bringing the guy his food from the self-service buffet. Another was the wide array of bottles on their table for two. Yet another was JUST LOOK AT THEM.

Luckily for us, they seemed mostly amused by the antics of Wimple, one of those curious people who doesn’t seem to understand that there are parts of life one is not meant to interact with unless invited. Such as in-progress cabaret acts.

He started off doing his own “interpretative” version of one dance at the edge of the stage, until he was shooed back to our table by the head waitress, who was from the rarely-seen take-no-shit school of Filipino serving staff. When he attempted to get up again, the waitress physically barred his way. She was cool.

Wimple then bided his time, until the band came back on. He seized the opportunity by cajoling a tambourine from one of the musicians, then dancing round with it to the music, mostly leaping around crouched low to the ground. After a while he decided to move the tambourine to a more comfortable position, putting his arm up his shirt and out through the neck, then continuing to dance around like a twat.

After about 45 seconds of this, the restaurant manager asked him to stop – but Wimple got a reprieve from the band. After another two minutes, though, Mt Bouncer (a cross between Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson but with hair, and some steroids) arrived, and dragged Wimple physically from the room.

I thought that would be the end of it, but NO – Wimple came bounding back in five minutes later, to be greeted by one of the large men on the next table, who proceeded to give Wimple a number of shots of… something. You don’t even need hindsight to know this was a mistake.

It was shortly after this that Wimple ascended the table, briefly, and then when back on the same level as the rest of us, managed to knock over two freestanding ice buckets in the process of giving Dimitri a hug.

This time his deportation by Mt Bouncer was final, and we collectively decided it was time to pay our (surprisingly modest) bill and leave.

As we descended the ornate staircase, it was clear that Thursday night had finally got underway with a vengeance downstairs, with a queue of mostly Subcontinental punters queuing to get into the Red Square nightclub hooker bar, and another stream of punters leaving the bar with their purchases.

Most of the purchases looked scared beneath their makeup.

Inside was pretty much as you’d expect, and I lasted approximately four minutes before calling it a night. Let’s just say it didn’t have the same atmosphere as the cabaret.

Anyway, provided you escape the Siren-like lure of Red Square on your way out, the Moscow Hotel’s cabaret is one of the most enjoyable evenings to be had in Dubai, especially for those less entertained by shitty dance music or braying Brits.

Do go. Take you friends.


* Not his real name. Not even his real fake name. Other identities tweaked to protect the participants.

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