The Secret Cabaret
|The Secret Cabaret|
|Created by||Simon Drake
|Presented by||Simon Drake|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||2|
|No. of episodes||12|
|Executive producer(s)||Sebastian Cody|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Original channel||Channel 4|
|Picture format||PAL (576)|
|Original release||9 January 1990 – 19 February 1992|
The Secret Cabaret was a magic-based television programme that ran for two series, of six episodes each, on Channel 4 in the UK during the early 1990s. It was conceived and fronted by British magician Simon Drake and was praised for giving a new and shocking twist to the presentation of illusions. In addition to various magicians the show featured sideshow acts and presentations by experts on fraud and confidence tricks, all interspersed with vintage archive footage of freak shows and daredevil stunts. It was nominated for a Royal Television Society Award.
Description and production details
Each programme revolved around a theatre-based show presented by Simon Drake and featuring illusions performed by him in various guises. The styling of the show was dark and mysterious with some elements that reflected goth subculture. One of the features that gained it attention were illusion segments performed by Drake in a guise that owed much to punk and heavy metal. These sections were often embellished with realistic looking blood and gore reminiscent of the infamous performances of Peruvian magician Richiardi Jr. A substantial part of the running time of the show was given over to guest performers and various filmed items, ranging from archive footage to close-up presentations or exposures of scams and swindles.
Simon Drake devised the series, saying: "On television in the UK then, were Wayne Dobson and Paul Daniels, but they didn’t appeal to me. I wanted to see something darker, more fast-paced and rock-and-roll, more sexy, more weird."
The series was conceived by Drake and produced by the company Open Media. It had strong input from sleight-of-hand magician Ricky Jay, who made special appearances in each show and was credited as a writer. Also credited as a writer was poet and playwright Heathcote Williams. Noted illusion designer Jim Steinmeyer was credited as one of the producers.
Regular guests included magicians James Randi, Geno Munari, Max Maven and David Berglas and reformed fraudster turned security expert Frank Abagnale. This was a decade before Abagnale became world famous through the 2002 bio-pic Catch Me If You Can produced by Steven Spielberg.
Episodes and broadcast dates
The following information was compiled by taking cast information from the listing given on Open Media's website and cross-checking it with data on the BFI database and with tapes of some episodes.
- Show 1 (first broadcast 9 January 1990) - guests included contortionist Rocky Rendall, ghost hunter Tony Ehlert and knife jugglers Carletti & Belle.
- Show 2 (first broadcast 16 January 1990) - guests included Mike Comerford, Mark Raffles and Fluke.
- Show 3 (first broadcast 23 January 1990) - guests included Les Hilton, Jeanin Lionet, Tony Andruzzi, Stromboli and John Gaughan.
- Show 4 (first broadcast 30 January 1990) - guests included Bartschelly, Jenny Randles and John Gaughan
- Show 5 (first broadcast 6 February 1990) - guests included trapeze artist Sue Brent, Charlie Marsden & Lloyd Williams, vaudevillian Jay Marshall, escapologist Alan Alan and vampire hunter Sean Manchester.
- Show 6 (first broadcast 13 February 1990) - guests included Watt the Man, Normando Rojas, Tony Andruzzi and Rocky Rendall.
"The second series was better, because we knew what we were doing. We knew we had to up the ante from the first series. It was slicker. I like it better." Simon Drake
- Show 1 (first broadcast 15 January 1992) - guests included Matthew Gryczan, Jeanie, Named Seuqcaj and Enrica.
- Show 2 (first broadcast 22 January 1992) - guests included Tkach, Charles Black, Snake Lady and La Dorina.
- Show 3 (first broadcast 29 January 1992) - guests included Stevie Starr, Len Di Maggio and Staubertis.
- Show 4 (first broadcast 5 February 1992) - guests included Max Oscar, Bessie Standing, Matthew Gryczan and Named Seuqcaj.
- Show 5 (first broadcast 12 February 1992) - guests included Elvis Mokko, Tony Zavosky, Anne Marie Bates and David Benn.
- Show 6 (first broadcast 19 February 1992) - guests included The Mandragores, Percilla & Emmitt Bejano, Jonny King, and Matthew Gryczan. (Open Media and BFI also list "Dorian Grey" but that is the name of an illusion performed by Simon Drake and not a performer).
The BFI lists a show broadcast on 7 December 1993, but it seems that this was a repeat of either show 1 or show 4 of series 2.
In addition to those named above, the following appeared in various end credits:
- Sarah Jane Cresswell
- Juliette Hardy
- Anthony Georghiou
- Peter Mandell
- Joanne Robley Dixon
- Desmond Williams
- Frances Wingate
- Charlotte Chatton
- Sue Brent
- Ann Pownall
- Helen Bee
- Researchers (series 1): David Britland and Isabel MacIver
- Researchers (series 2): David Britland and Sarah Wynn Parry
- Film researcher: Cy Young
- Additional magic (series 1)/Magic consultant(series 2): Patrick Page
- Costume Designer: Robin Betts
- Makeup (series 2): Nosh
- Original music: Robert Lockhart
- Music Producer: Graeme Pleeth
- Sound designer: Nigel Holland
- Choreographer (series 2): Jonathan Thrift
- Designer: Ray Oxley
- Titles: Willy Smax
- Lighting designer: Simon Rickman
- Theatre director (series 1): Vincent Stafford
- Theatre director (series 2): Don Coutts
- Director: Sebastian Harris
- Executive producer: Sebastian Cody
- Producers: Frankie Glass and Jim Steinmeyer
- In the end titles for the show Drake received the credit "Conceived and Original Material".
- "The Secret Cabaret". Open Media. Retrieved 2007-03-15.
- "The Secret Cabaret (series 1)". The British Film Institute. Retrieved 2007-03-15.
- "The Secret Cabaret (series 2)". The British Film Institute. Retrieved 2007-03-15.
- The information for this episode was checked directly with a recorded copy of "The Secret Cabaret - series 2 episode 6". (Open Media and Channel 4).
- "The Secret Cabaret [07/12/93]". The British Film Institute. Retrieved 2007-03-15.
- The credits lists here have been compiled from available tapes of episodes and from lists published on the web by Simon Drake and Open Media. Tapes were not available for all episodes and so this listing should not be assumed to be complete. Where a particular series is noted in parentheses it means the name was found on credits for that series but it does not imply the person was not involved in both series.
- Taken from "Cast & Crew". Simon Drake's Secret Cabaret site. Retrieved 2008-07-17. and also from a tape of "The Secret Cabaret - series 2 episode 6". (Open Media and Channel 4).
- From tapes of "The Secret Cabaret - series 1 episode 6". (Open Media and Channel 4). and "The Secret Cabaret - series 2 episode 6". (Open Media and Channel 4).
- Walker, Mark (November 2006). "Simon Drake's House of Magic". Magic (Stagewrite Publishing). - covers Simon Drake's current projects but also touches on The Secret Cabaret.
- The Secret Cabaret was the subject of the cover story of the January 1992 issue of Magic magazine
- Simon Drake's Secret Cabaret website
- Open Media listings
- Feature at magic-review.co.uk
- Simon Drake's House of Magic website
- Magic Week profile of Simon Drake which mentions The Secret Cabaret