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Brigitte Aphrodite’s Big Canterbury Opa (Gulbenkian Theatre)

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On Thursday evening I headed to Canterbury’s Gulbenkian Theatre on the University of Kent campus for the third year of Brigitte Aphrodite’s Big Canterbury Opa. The variety show was commissioned by producer-led arts organisation 1DegreeEast for the ‘South by South East Festival’ and featured artists with a link to the local Kent area or Greek heritage, hence the name ‘Opa’. I recently saw Brigitte, who is half Greek herself, in action with SAD at the Marlowe Theatre Studio, so when I received the invitation to her variety show featuring local creatives, I jumped at the chance to attend.

Leaflet for Brigitte Aphrodite's Big Canterbury Opa in front of the stage at the Gulbenkian Theatre

About the show

Hosted by Brigitte, the event is a cabaret-style show, with various different acts on the bill. Covering music, drag, poetry, circus, clowning and theatre, the event aims to provide something for every taste, but at its heart, provide local performers and artists of Greek heritage with a platform for their work.

Musical performances

The Margate ‘Social Singing Choir’ performed a couple of musical numbers throughout the show and hearing this group of people sing and get so much joy out of it, definitely made me appreciate the community feel of the event. We also got to stand up and dance with Margate-based drag queen Dame Jame, with everybody on their feet at the ends of both acts. A fun surprise was their rendition of the Pokemon theme tune which I totally wasn’t expecting, but it ended up being really catchy. They clearly are a born performer!

Dame Jame performing at Brigitte Aphrodite's Big Canterbury Opa at the Gulbenkian Theatre

‘The Black Flamingo’ readings by Dean Atta

Listed as ‘one of the 100 most influential LGBT people in the United Kingdom’ by The Independent newspaper, the British poet of Greek Cypriot and Jamaican descent read a few powerful pieces from their young adult verse novel, with some important messages about identity and coming out. It was also great to hear their inspiration for the book and how they are hoping the book will help young LGBTQIA+ teens coming to terms with their sexuality.

Circus skills with Symoné

Guinness World Record winner Symoné took to the stage with two separate circus segments: hula hooping on high-heeled roller skates and pole dancing. Their aerobic strength was astounding, especially when they were in control of what looked like tens of glowing hula hoops.

The stage for Brigitte Aphrodite's Big Canterbury Opa at the Gulbenkian Theatre

Neuroqueer clown An(dre)a Spisto

Clowning isn’t usually to my taste, but that being said I found An(dre)a Spisto’s prom-themed set amusing. Ahead of any mime or exaggeration there were some improvisational, audience interaction elements which ended up being really funny. This was definitely my favourite part of their set, with everything feeling very organic and natural.

A taster of Sarah-Louise Young’s ‘An Evening Without Kate Bush’

Theatre performer Sarah-Louise Young presented a few songs from her Edinburgh Fringe hit ‘An Evening Without Kate Bush’. Having grown up in Canterbury, Sarah-Louise knows the area and Gulbenkian venue very well, performing there as a teenager. Based on this preview, I am thinking that this unique take on the tribute act needs to be on my schedule for this year’s festival. From this short segment it was clear how engaging she is as a performer, making you reflect on the icon that is Kate Bush.

Meeting Dame Jame and Brigitte Aphrodite after the Big Canterbury Opa at the Gulbenkian Theatre

A welcoming atmosphere that supports local artists

Brigitte Aphrodite created a really welcoming atmosphere throughout the performance, lifting the artists through her role as compere. Frequently encouraging us to say ‘opa’ when we were enjoying an artist’s set, the overall ambiance was extremely supportive and encouraging, with an undertone of celebration. As a Kent-based theatre writer I was completely inspired by the amount of local talent and felt like it was my introduction into the local cabaret and variety scene. I can’t wait to explore more of this in the area. Fingers crossed Brigitte brings the show back next year, as it is a lot of fun and features a taster of many different genres.

Thanks for reading my blog today.

Love Kat xxxx

*My ticket for Brigitte Aphrodite’s Big Canterbury Opa was gifted in exchange for local event coverage.



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