Is this a review of the Royal Vauxhall Tavern or of Dr Sketchy?
Royal Vauxhall Tavern
372 Kennington Lane, London SE11 5HY
- Vauxhall Tube Station (0.1 km)
- Oval Station (0.8 km)
- Vauxhall Station (0.2 km)
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14 reviews of Royal Vauxhall Tavern in English
The first time I went here was for the Wotever Bazaar – i got some great S&N ginger bread men. It was a really friendly place and had a lovely atmosphere. I would recommend it for a great chilled out night.
The RVT is legendary in South London. One of the oldest gay pubs in "Sarf" London, the RVT started life as a Victorian music hall. After the war, returning servicemen and local gay men were attracted to the venue, which held shows of female impersonators, the forerunner of drag shows. Diana Dors, Freddy Mercury and Paul O'Grady are synonymous with the RVT.
Not much has changed. There is always something on during the week, usually something edgy, something from the Edinburgh Festival or something avant garde.
Saturday night is hosted by Amy Lame, but on Sunday afternoon/evening a visit to SLAGS Chillout is an absolute must. On Bank Holiday weekends, you need to get there at least three hours before the show. The queues are long but worth the wait.
The "legend that is the Dame Edna Experience" (aka Jonathan Hellyer), Simon La Vans, Sean Sirrs and Andy Almighty put on an absolutely fantastic night. Jonathan's show is a "must see".
It should be mandatory for all gay tourists to London to see the show.
Absolutely love the RVT. There is something different on every night of the week, but the absolute best night is Sunday. The Dame Edna Experience is a show everyone who wants to be shocked and non PC must see. Very queer, very gay, very good.
I've had the pleasure of spending two evenings at the RVT in recent months, both times as a participant of Dr Sketchy's fabulous drinking and drawing events. A pretty bog standard London pub by day, by night the RVT comes to life and is well equipped for performers with a modest but centrally located stage. Drinks seemed a bit pricey but probably typical for the area, and it's really easy to get there via Vauxhall tube and rail or squillions of buses that stop round the corner.
As for the entertainment, well, I can't wait to go back for another night of artistic abandonment and silly fun, and would happily make Dr Sketchy's a monthly event in my calendar. The confidence I gained from both sessions to just have a go and draw at home prompted me to actually spend money in my local art shop instead of wistfully browsing around, wishing I could draw. It's not that my current masterpieces are any good, believe me, but at least now I'm happy to try!
The RVT has a long and proud (puns gleefully intended) place in London's gay history, but welcomes everyone, and these days the small stage is more or less in use every night for drag, burlesque, cabaret, or any sort of performance you can imagine. They even host their own festival, the Hot August Fringe, in, you guessed it, August.
It's the events that get you in the door, and perhaps dazzled by the dozen or so glitter balls on the ceiling, you don't mind the over-priced drinks and food of unpredictable quality (sometime's it's good, but you just never know what sort of a day they're having in the kitchen)... but you wouldn't pop in for a quiet drink or bite to eat. I don't think it's even an option.
As long as they keep putting on great entertainment, the negatives are forgivable.
And it was most definitely not a teddy-bear!
I still suck at life drawing but that's not really the point of a night with Dr Sketchy, which was what drew me to the RVT.
Even Dusty Limit's warm up exercises couldn't save me ("Draw without looking at the page!" "Time to draw a random animal" "The theme for this one is Nobel Peace Prize") but it was enough to bask in the reflected glow of Patrick's prize for his cubist rendition of male burlesque artist Mr Meredith. Just don't suggest that's a teddy bear in the corner there, apparently it's a marmoset from the Secret Monkey round. Riiiight.
A chaotic, unpredictable night, where endearingly the organisers do
seem to have a genuine interest in helping you to achieve your artistic potential, no matter how cack-handed you might be. Attracts a diverse crowd of all abilities and was a really good laugh.
Comment 1 comment on this review
pjthompso, 27 May 2011:
I attended the QYPE event ‘Dr. Sketchy’ at RVT (Royal Vauxhall Tavern)
The event was the most random mix of events. . . Burlesque with Drawing? And comedy cabaret?? 3 nights for the price of one!!!
After a comical burlesque dance that went from Star Trek to tit tassels in less than 30 seconds, it was drawing time! This was like Pictionary on acid! The room, packed full to capacity, all abilities were ‘beavering’ away, trying to come up with the best or funniest picture they could. This Parlour type game was great fun: to draw using their left hand in a minute without looking was a challenge for even those with artistic ability!
We had a great laugh, mostly at my rubbish pictures. Great fun.
My first visit ever to Vauxhall led me to this venue for a Dr Sketchy event. As soon as I walked in I was transported to some of my favorite cabaret stages back in Kansas City. This is the kind of place I’d totally want to come for a night of drag queens, comedy and burlesque. While I have no idea if they offer all these things, though my assumption is that they do, I was there for the burlesque with a twist. I ordered a cider and some chips (nice ones that came with their own sides of S&V) to keep my hands busy when not sketching. The staff was friendly, the show was fun, and the flier I received on the way out seemed to indicate a lot more fun in the Tavern could be had.
It’s a bit out of the way for me, but it’s easy to get to from the tube station, which is helpful. I would definitely re-visit for another show in the future and to experience a bit more of real culture and clientele.
I arrived at the RVT for a session of Dr.Sketchy’s, having never been to the venue before.
The venue was perfect for a drawing/ performance as the stage is hugged by multi level seating arrangements, the bar neatly tucked off to one side.
Dr. Sketchy is the brain child of New York’s own Molly Crabbleapple, and on this night it brought all the fun of the Big Apple to Vauxhall, with the 'nipples in tassels’ approach to spicing up life drawing! A huge sigh of relief was collectively echoed as the host told us that “there is no right or wrong at Dr.Sketchy” as long as our sketches were not “feathery or feeble”.
For me the best part about the night, apart from the rather lovely (and cheaply priced) vegetarian platter for two that fed three of us, was the music. Burlesque dancers own, as well as some classics (notably ‘Come Together’ by the Beatles). I can assure you music is never present, unless of the classical variety, in a normal life drawing class, and now I can only but wonder why.
Dr Sketchy (Doc.tor Sket.che); Definition: a night out with friends and drinks for a burlesque themed life drawing class, the potential to be a great evening and one class that one might just pay all attention too.
Synonyms: entertaining, witty, vibrant, hilarity, convivial, pleasure, orgasmic, flirty.
The actual in all its fabulousness: Sexy lines and serious scribbles, entertainers dazzling with themes of sweet sweet cupcakes, intense orgasms and flirty feathers. A mission to draw, not well, just creatively with lots of imagination and monkeys, and body parts, and blindness, and artistic license.
Summary: Class by name, class by nature.
Class; (klas, klahs) - noun, Definition: 1. excellence; exceptional merit 2. elegance, grace, or dignity, as in dress and behaviour 3. a number of persons or things regarded as forming a group by reason of common attributes, characteristics, qualities, or traits; kind; sort: a class of objects used in daily living.4 a group of students meeting regularly to study a subject under the guidance of a teacher: The class had arrived on time for the lecture.
I can’t review the typical nights at this venue, but I came here for the Dr Sketchy burlesque life drawing night, which was hugely enjoyable. The slightly faded glamour of the interior (stage with plush red curtains, big mahogany bar) was the perfect setting. The drinks are expensive, though - £5 for a large glass of red wine poured out of an individual plastic bottle. You can have food brought to your table - didn’t try it, but the Thai platter that was served up next to me looked nice.
This bar/theatre is actually one of those life-changing landmark venues for me personally, as this was the stage of my debut performance as Becky 'Balabusta’ Fisher, the compere of Middle Eastern Drag King troupe the Schmooze Brothers (theschmoozebrothers.com). Granted this story might not be your average “On Friday night, down at the RVT I…” pub banter opening, but nonetheless since World War II, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern has been a key influence on the capital’s gay scene. It has survived the Blitz, endured the AIDS epidemic and is known across the London as being the first gay venue my parents tentatively stepped into unscathed! Always popular, always diverse and entertaining, this venue holds something magical for people of ALL persuasions!
You don’t have to be gay to enjoy the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. I was drawn here by the Cholmondeleys and the Featherstonehaughs, an alternative dance troupe who are staging their latest show in these unusual settings.
I don’t want to give anything away - the show is just brilliant, the costumes disturbingly beautiful, and I am tempted to come back for the remaining five shots of “Russian Roulette”.
Comment 1 comment on this review
mickeydee, 11 August 2012:
Just as well if you aren’t gay. I went to the RVT for the first time last year in well over 15 years and what a shock. The place seemed hardly gay anymore.
I went on a wednesday evening. There was a woman on the door who charged me several quid entrance fee. Once inside there was hardly anyone there. The place had been revamped it is true, there was a video screen showing some kind of 70s retro semi-gay “blue movie” . I got the impression the place was run by women, or maybe a group of them had rented the place for wednesday evenings.
The other guests were mostly mixed sex hipsters. There seemed to be very few gay people in there. I stayed for less than an hour, drank my drink and left in disgust.
Total rip off and not for me. The whole place now just seemed false. It seemed to me like the RVT had become a kind of pseudo gay pub for hetero hipsters who want to visit what they think is a gay pub.
Maybe I had visited on the “wrong” night, but I shan’t be bothering to go there again.
Looking like a pub from a forgotten era. The venue that gave birth to Lily Savage has refreshed and revitalised in recent years, with a paint job and new sound and lighting systems breathing life into the place.
Standing alone at the bottom of Kennington Lane and South Lambeth Road, surrounded by a small patch of grassland, is an old Victorian pub. It doesn’t look much from the outside. A recent paintjob has smartened up the walls but can’t alter the impression that this is the last pub standing, the only venue in the area not to be redeveloped or turned into a
But behind these doors lies a wealth of gay cultural history. The Royal Vauxhall Tavern is London’s longest-surviving gay venue. It endured the Blitz, and the devastating impact of AIDS. It even survived the defection of its greatest star, Lily Savage, to the world of daytime television. And like all true survivors, the old girl is currently enjoying a bit of a comeback.
Walk past any night of the week and you’ll hear music, laughter and possibly even the sound of a man in a wig singing ‘Maybe This Time’ by Liza Minnelli.
The historic Royal Vauxhall Tavern plays host to comedy, cabaret, jazz, gay, bingo and club nights 7 days a week, treating London’s alternative gay and his friends to endless evenings of unadulterated fun.
Attracting mainly thirty-something beardy alternative gays and their straight friends, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern is consciously uncool. The crowd is here for pure, unadulterated fun, whether they want to boogie to
the eclectic tunes, see a live music act or catch the hysterical cabaret, with stars throughout the week such as Amy Lame and the Dame Edna Experience hosting different evenings such as the infamous Saturday night shindig, Duckie. The staff follow the lead of the management, keen to chat and keep the punters coming back to the bar for more.
The Royal Vauxhall Tavern is nothing if not diverse, with a fine selection of indie, glam rock, 80’s pop and electro pop dominating the club nights, and jazz and live music alongside comedy and drag acts making up the cabaret.
An attitude-free, diverse night out for anyone gay or straight.
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