Last Updated on August 3, 2021
A big night out in Deptford
Cabaret, drag, comedy, music and dancing – what more could a post-lockdown Londoner desire after months of seclusion? We went along to Shipwright – Deptford’s newest arts festival – to see Diane Chorley Down the Flick: Al Fresco and experienced all of those things.
Shipwright is a new 200-seat outdoor theatre set in the riverside gardens of the Master Shipwright’s House. This historic house is one of the last buildings standing of Deptford’s old Royal Dockyard, which was founded by Henry VIII in 1513. The current house was built in 1702, replacing the original Tudor building, and is now in private ownership. It truly is a special and atmospheric setting for the mix of theatre, music and cabaret offered by this summer micro-festival.
After an afternoon of torrential rainfall, we set off for Deptford armed with our most professional waterproofs. Thankfully the evening was uneventfully dry but it is vital to come prepared because there is no shelter from rain or sun here.
Meanwhile there is the important matter of food and drink. I have spent far too much time at festivals standing in queues for disappointing food and overpriced drinks. Not so at Shipwright. Food here is provided by popular Deptford caterers Klose & Soan, who over the course of the festival are offering three different menus. We coincided with one of their Greek evenings – the other two cuisines are Levantine and Portuguese – and enjoyed hearty pork shoulder flatbreads. Drinks are sourced from local suppliers and craft breweries.
Fed and watered, we then settled down for an evening of cabaret. Hostessing duties were in the capable hands of songstress and failed Essex nightclub owner Diane Chorley, aka the Duchess of Canvey, backed up by her put-upon sidekick and guitarist Milky. We were treated to a night of good-natured silliness, audience participation and original songs, both comic and very occasionally sad. One new number – about the death of a young gay man – had the audience on their feet at the end. Others on the more disco end of the spectrum had everyone up and dancing.
Diane introduced us to four talented young comedians – Mawaan Rizwan, Sikisa, Phil Dunning and Leo Reich. Particular highlights were Mawaan Rizwan’s high-energy song-and-dance numbers and Phil Dunning’s highly original character comedy.
Diane closed her final set by leading us all in a rousing and highly appropriate sing-and-dance-along to George Michael’s Freedom. The fun didn’t end there as Shipwright’s cabaret night also included a DJ playing classic disco music.
Shipwright is a welcome new addition to the Southeast London Arts scene and I hope to see the festival return next summer. In the meantime, there are still several interesting events to come on this year’s programme and I recommend checking out this hidden, and beautiful, corner of Deptford. The views over the Thames are worth it alone and the entertainment is great too.
The Shipwright summer season is running until 7 August 2021
The Master Shipwright’s House,
Deptford SE8 3JF