When host-with-the-most Josh Breach was putting the Knees Up! show together, he had one rule in mind – to make it a show his mum could enjoy.
As Josh, who puts on events as The Shift, says, the night aims to celebrate the camp and the kitsch with cabaret madness, bursting at the seams of cheap sequins.
‘We used to be London-based and put on lots of mad club things and performance art,’ says Josh.
‘About two years ago I relocated back home to Portsmouth and decided I wanted to do a show that my mum could come and see for a change. I don’t think performance art club nights were particularly her thing!
‘I had a lovely chat with her and asked what she wanted to see. She said: “I want to see light entertainment, I want to wear a sequined top and sit at a table with a glass of wine”. I said “all right mum, we’ll make that happen for you”, and that’s where it started
‘For me, it was important to come back and to support the culture and the arts scene. We started off using artists from London, but now we’ve got a full repertoire of people from the area. We’ve got a cheerleading troupe, and a girlband, and drag acts – it’s a whole mix of everything together, inspired by your ’70s at the London Palladium kind of vibe.
‘Mum was always saying I want something for me to do except to watch TV, so I thought, why don’t we put what you want on TV in front of a live audience?’
So what can we expect?
‘It’s really campy, really silly, really slapdash, it’s not polished, it’s you slip on a banana skin and: “Ooh, matron”, that kind of thing.
‘There’s a massive relationship between the seaside and that kind of Cilla Black culture – it’s trying to get that vibe back and to make the seaside mean something again culturally.
‘With South Parade Pier coming up again and what looks like a reimagining of the seaside, that’s where I envision it.’
But Josh wants to leave his audiences thinking too.
‘I want to provide some light politics as an undercurrent to it, so actually, it may not be a complete piece of performance art, but you’re left questioning something, wondering why someone is a certain way – changing people’s perspectives and expectations. And all that in a slapstick comedy!
‘There’s a lot there, a lot to ask, but you shoot for the moon and land among the stars.’
And he also thinks we could be a little more like our coastal neighbours to the east.
‘Why can’t we be more like Brighton and supplying Portsmouth with the same kind of culture?
‘There seems to be lots going on in Portsmouth, but it seems fragmented. How do we know about all these things? With Knees Up we want to immerse artists from different parts of the culture into something where they can meet each other. I want to reach a point where we can have an act that would normally play in Little Johnny Russell’s and put it on with something that would normally be at The HB - it’s trying to provide that space.
‘I think Brighton does that well – all the culture is one, it’s not segregated. And that’s what we’re trying to do here.’
Groundlings Theatre, Portsea
Friday, July 21