Dating back for centuries, London has been a hub for arts and culture, often showcasing the next big thing in intimate venues across the city. From Amy Winehouse to the National Theatre, many of the best creatives in the world have found their footing on the London scene before hitting the big time.
If you’re planning on staying in London this summer, there are a plethora of arts events taking place all across the city. From royal park music festivals close to our Park Grand London Paddington Hotel to free work in progress comedy shows, the London culture scene is really heating up over the next few months.
One option opening itself up to Paddington Hotel guests is the Underbelly Festival. With its range of family friendly performances and more risque comedy, the festival has quickly become one of the most celebrated London events. Perched comfortably on the South Bank, the festival is a hot spot for not only performance, but for socialising too. Below is a brief guide to the Underbelly and everything you need to enjoy it.
History of the Underbelly
The Underbelly has its roots in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, an arts festival held every August of the year in Scotland. Since the year 2000, the Underbelly company, sponsored by a wide range of different brands has become one of the go-to venues for cutting edge theatre, comedy and performance during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
It was a few years later, in 2008, that the Underbelly opened up its London branch on the banks of the Thames. With landmarks such as the London Eye in close proximity, the festival has expanded its LOndon line up into a wide range of crowd pleasing, accessible performances, giving the best of both alternative performance and family friendly shows.
The layout of the underbelly
The Underbelly consists of a inflatable pop-up venue and a large outdoor bar and terrace area. Whilst shows take place throughout the day and last little more than an hour, the outside bar area offers up craft beer, food and live DJ’s spinning crowd pleasing tunes on the decks. Perfect for after work drinks, summer day parties and of course, soaking in some of London’s very best culture, the Underbelly shows usually come to less than £20, make them an affordable way to get to know the city.
So, what can you expect from the Underbelly Festival this year? Spanning all the way from April into September, the festival is one of the longest-running and most eclectic out there, not only in the city, but in the country.
Little Death Club
This Berlin born cabaret show infuses punk and jazz, fire breathing and a drag queens for a delectable cocktail of debauchery. With the beautiful dancers and circus acts, you’ll be blown away by the giddy delights of this morose yet mysterious cabaret show. Playing till the 23rd of June, this show is perfect for a very adult night out.
The Quebec born Flip Fabrique brings a heady dose of high flying circus skills to the South Bank this summer. Running until the 7th of July, Transit is a show full to the brim with the circus, acrobatics and fast paced fun, showing off the groups camaraderie and jaw dropping talents.
London Comedy Allstars
This variety show returns to the Underbelly every Saturday evening for a dose of some of the best comedians on the scene today. Whether seasoned veterans or emerging clowns, none of the acts in the London Comedy Allstars show will disappoint. With an eclectic mix of comedy stylings, this is the best show in the city to find the next big thing in London comedy.
This Jane Austen inspired improv show brings a cast of the countries sharpest comic performers and challenges them to create a story out of a “lost” Jane Austen novel, the title of which is chosen by the audience. With every show being completely different, the Austentatious gang are 5-star performers with a quick wit and knack for completely ruining classic British literature. Running throughout the year, there are plenty of chances to see this hit Edinburgh Fringe show.
Running for a month from the 27th of June, Yummy is an all star drag and cabaret show made of the best international stars of the drag circuit. With its avant garde and refreshing take on cabaret shows, this is the show for adult guests looking for something a little bit different.
Magical Bones unboxed
If you’ve never seen a man do a backflip whilst performing a card trick, or breakdance back spinning whilst solving a Rubik’s Cube, then Magical Bones Unboxed gives you the chance. From the 26th of June, you can enjoy one of the most unique magicians on the circuit, bringing call dance moves and magic into a pulse pumping joyride of a family show.
Physical comedian Mawaan Rizwan is a laugh artist with gleeful physical skills and a Simon Amstell support tour behind him. With his deeply personal yet playful show Juice, Mawaan is certainly a comedian to watch out for.
Flo and Joan
Most famous for being seen on Rob Delaney’s Stand Up Central, this sibling duo of musical comedians sing blackly comic and surprisingly tuneful songs about love, life and sisterhood. Catch these toe tapping sisters on the 29th of June.
On the 1st of July, the Fast Fringe brings a veritable bouquet of variety acts and comedians. With Britains Got Talent finalists, emerging comedians and some of the most unique performers in London today, this show brings you some of the best, and most eclectic performers out there.
Sh!t Faced Showtime
This multi award winning take on the Bards work is best known for bringing laughs and “serious” acting ten pints deep into a chaotic Shakespearian romp. This year at the Underbelly you can expect them to take on Alice Through the Looking Glass in an all singing, all dancing West End show with one drunken performer thrown into the mix every night.