Add a dash of burlesque or cabaret to plans for your London weekend breaks, because Underbelly Festival is celebrating its eleventh year of scorching summer entertainment. Disclaimer: It’s already underway, so book tickets before it’s too late!
Underbelly is a pop-up festival with a program of events that includes cabaret, music, comedy as well as family-friendly shows. While more and more tourists flock to this event (London’s answer to Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival), it’s also become a popular haunt for Londoners after work or in their time off at weekends. It’s easy to see why!
Underbelly brands itself as affordable, world-class live entertainment, with tickets usually being priced around £20 per person per show. The acts are usually capped at one hour, too, which is ideal for those who have a shorter stay in the city and want to cram in as much as they can – perfect for those planning London weekend breaks.
Underbelly is very conveniently placed from Barbican hotels London in a prime spot along London’s Southbank, in between the Southbank Centre and the London Eye. They have a food festival on-site where you can tuck into tasty street food alongside a pre-show drink.
Underbelly provides laughs and spectacles until the end of September. Some of the shows book up early, particularly the headliners and acts with a limited run time, so book ahead if something catches your eye. You can often find a few last-minute tickets on the day, but advance booking is recommended – particularly now during the peak of summer.
We have pulled together the highlights to help you chose the right show for you.
Now until 28 July. Tickets from £12.50. Suitable for age 15+
An outrageous and joyous cabaret show fusing a delicious cocktail of drag, live music, circus and burlesque. Following its conception in Melbourne, YUMMY has now toured the globe, scooping up prizes along the way, including Best Cabaret at Fringe World 2019. It also claimed Best Production and Best Ensemble (Cabaret) at the 2018 Green Room Awards.
YUMMY was founded by drag star Valerie Hex, and the ensemble includes burlesque superstar Zelia Rose and gymnast Hannie Helsden (La Soirée). The Scotsman call it, ‘A sexy, transgressive, genderfluid, fashion-conscious non-stop party.’ Ru Paul, eat your heart out.
Immersive: 80 Days – A Real World Adventure
Now until 29 September. Tickets from £21
If you’re feeling energetic and ready for a fully immersive theatrical experience where you take centre stage, 80 Days – A Real World Adventure is the show for you. You have 80 minutes to dash around London raising funds, solving clues as you prepare to embark on your own adventure based on Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. Decide who you can trust and what you need for your expedition. You need a mobile phone with data as the game is app-based, and there is the option to either do this solo or within a team.
Dancing: Swing Out! A Night of Live Swing Music and Dancing
Now until 2 September. Tickets from £14. Suitable for ages 16+
Flip, spin, swing your partner and put your best foot forward! This three and a half hour event kicks off with the basics of swing dancing, under the instruction of experts from Swingdance UK.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, the party begins. You’ll step into the roaring 20s Jazz age, and takes you through a whirlwind of the glamorous 30s, the spirit of the wartime 40s, concluding with dancing the night away in the fabulous 50s.
28 August – 15 September.Tickets from £16.50. Suitable for ages 18+
A night at the circus strictly for adult eyes only. Rouge is a passionate and sexually evocative blend of acrobatics, aerial trapeze, operatic cabaret and tongue in cheek burlesque. Book a ticket to this climatic headline performance before they’re all gone.
Comedy: London Comedy Allstars
31 August – 28 September. Tickets from £20. Suitable for ages 18+
Laugh your socks off with a bit of Saturday night humour. London Comedy Allstars runs every Saturday night during September at Underbelly, handy for those planning London weekend breaks. The line up this year includes Rhys Nicholson, Rosie Jones and Pierre Novellie. Check the schedule for the night you plan to be in town and laugh away the night.
Music: 007 Voices of Bond
14 – 28 September. Tickets from £17
Vocalist Phoebe Katis and her accompanying live band take you into the slinky, stealthy world of spymaster James Bond. This is a 60-minute rendition of the theme tunes from the films including Diamonds Are Forever, Skyfall and Goldfinger.
‘Nobody Does it Better’ than Phoebe. If you (or your family) are Bond fans, add a trip to the London Film Museum too, which is a collection of original James Bond vehicles. Located in Covent Garden, it’s easy to reach from Barbican hotels in London.
Live Podcast: The Guilty Feminist
10 August. Tickets from £17. Suitable for ages 16+
I’m a feminist but… Welcome to the award-winning podcast of comedian Deborah Frances-White, in which she and her guests discuss 21st-century feminism whilst confessing their own hypocrisies which underlie their principles. Join Deborah for the live performance of her latest podcast recording at Underbelly. Her guests in the past have included Jo Brand, Sarah Millican and Gemma Arteton.
Family: Morgan & West’s Utterly Spiffing Spectacular Magic Show For Kids (and Childish Grown-ups)!
Now until 1 September. Tickets from £10.25
There are plenty of children’s acts at Underbelly, but if you want to pick something that you will all get something out of, we suggest you opt for tickets to this show presented by time travelling musicians Morgan & West. Their magical extravaganza incorporates magic tricks, illusions and good old fashioned tom-foolery so you’ll be awed and amused in equal measure. Abracadabra – snap up your tickets before they vanish into thin air!
This show is recommended for ages 5+, and there are productions for younger tots and babies too – Twirlywoos runs during August.