Interview: Cabinet Sinistro – “Anything can pop out from the cabinet, it’s a tout-court exploration of all things horror.”

What are your backgrounds in alternative entertainment and how did you meet up?

“Elena has been invested non stop in the artistic sector over the past 6 years. She is an internationally published alternative model, actor, dancer, and cabaret artist whose performing journey began in the theatre. Trained as an actress, she joined several fringe theatrical productions across London and starred in a few experimental short films. With years of dance experience, a flair for theatre, and a love for burlesque, transitioning into the world of cabaret was a natural progression for her. Cabaret offers a level of creative freedom and professional independence that theatre has struggled to maintain post-pandemic, allowing Elena to mix her love for theatre with a dark aesthetic and create thought-provoking acts.

Elena honed her dance skills during her teenage years and studied musical theatre while in acting school. She further refined her craft at Burlesque Cheek and the Soho School of Burlesque. In addition, she learnt sideshow skills such as fire and freakshow stunts to add a more extreme, shocking component to her performance. Over the years she has performed at a wide range of queer and alternative events and venues, including Weird and Queer, Kink Mystique, Riposte, Club Antichrist, multiple productions of the Damnitjanets, and many other indie shows.

Francis is a stand up comedian and host of both stand up comedy events and cabaret, but his roots are in the metal scene. As a vocalist, he has ranged from Judas Priest to Cannibal Corpse, but saving a black spot in his heart for Cradle of Filth – his first metal love. His passion for comedy, however, led him to spend a few years in the London improv scene and acting in short films,  until he made the transition to comedy writing and stand up comedy –  still finding his voice and honing the craft on the open mic circuit with relentless persistence.

We met at uni around 11 years ago, when we were nothing but a couple of good old nerds, respectively studying philosophy and mathematics. We later became a couple and have been living together here in London virtually ever since. We always pushed each other to follow our passions, which eventually led us to conceiving Cabinet Sinistro.”

You clearly both have a love for horror so was it an obvious step to create Cabinet Sinistro from that?

“We always supported and valued each other’s creativity and shared a love for all things goth, scary, and dark, so it’s always been just a matter of time before we decided to finally melt our brain in a witch cauldron to stir havoc over the stages of London. However, Cabinet Sinistro is our response to the cry of the dark, edgy performers who can’t find a home. There’s plenty of camp and sexy shows in the cabaret scene, which is fantastic, but the unsettling and horrific landscape is either nonexistent, too niche, or otherwise inaccessible. There is a herd of artists who are into the unconventional and the weird. The proof of this statement is the ridiculous amount of applications we received in no time. Cabinet Sinistro is needed, and we’re very excited – as well as proud. Often we are regarded as a “novelty”, particularly over the Halloween season, but also generally in shows where sometimes one feels that they’ve been called to cover the “freak” quota. This is a lifestyle, we celebrate the gothic culture all year around and our show wants to be a safe haven for those who feel the same.”

Who does what within the cabaret show?

“Elena Black is the mind behind the project. She takes care of the creative direction of our shows, social media and marketing, as well as occasionally starring in our lineups with her thought-provoking acts.
Besides assisting Elena as a co-producer, Francis is the devious host and writer of the shows. The structure of Cabinet Sinistro combines the spontaneous and interactive nature of cabaret with elements of immersive theatre.”

Do you have any other permanent team members?

“Not currently. We make it a rule to give space to people who haven’t been on the show. The shows will be themed so every line up will be different and have a unique flavour. The audience can expect lots of twists and turns. However we have the honour of being supported by a handful of dark performers who we know always deliver delicious darkness to their performances – we are very grateful for them, their contributions, and their support.”

What are your own personal influences that you’re bringing a flavour of to Cabinet Sinistro?

“There are way too many to list. In part, we’ve been inspired by the boldness of the few shows in London that celebrate diversity with a touch of weird and wonderful, however the general idea stemmed from TV series such as Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities and American Horror Story, where different tropes and themes of the horror genres are explored and portrayed – hence our choice of running themed nights.

Anything can pop out from the cabinet, it’s a tout-court exploration of all things horror – from its cinematic subgenres to its spawns in the metal and gothic culture. We are both metalheads, and although the music scene is quite prolific, as well as events where one can gather, dress up, and meet like-minded people, they’re mainly focused around the clubbing or musical experience rather than the performing aspect. Meanwhile, alongside musicians and singers, there’s a vast array of relevant performers and visual artists who feed into those aesthetics and also deserve a space to create. In fact, alongside being influenced by movies, literature, and art, we are driven and inspired by those performers who we hold dear to our hearts and challenge convention, see the late Masuimi Max. Across the UK there are lots of horror aficionados who attempt to bring horror to the masses: Rick Jones at HorrifyMe UK, Domino Barbeau with their productions in Hasting, or the multi talented and international artist Dani Divine, who has travelled the world with her cosplays and gory performances, and many more. So, as mentioned, we do have lots of people to look up to! We thought London too needs and deserves a space for the admirers of the darkness and the horrific to gather – and not just over the Halloween season!”

How will this club night differ from others on the scene?

“The freedom of creative expression we’ll leave to our performers. There is nothing too gory, disgusting, or irreverent to us. Often producers ask to “tone down” the work, to “smile a bit more”, to “not look so scary”, or “be less bloody”. Sometimes the music choices can be questioned too, especially for mainstream burlesque events where rock, metal or gothic genres tend to be frowned upon in favour of traditional vintage songs or camp/upbeat tracks. Our shows will be for those who have a genuine interest and passion. And for the curious who want to experience something different and perhaps a bit freaky: We intend to deliver.”

How do you go about finding the acts for your show?

“We recently closed a casting call which received a huge response. We thought this concept show might’ve sparked interest, but not as much as having us buried in applications! We received over 150 applications via casting call or direct contact (DM or email) from performers from across the UK but also overseas! We are having mixed feelings of surprise, happiness, and gratitude. Another way of scouting artists is attending shows and keeping an eye on interesting events or profiles on social media, but in this instance a large number of artists were naturally drawn to us due to the nature of the show and our pledge to celebrate monsters and ghouls all year round!”

Where will the shows be held, what confirmed dates do you have at the moment and who do you have lined up for them? (feel free to expand on the venue a bit and how it caters for alternative people)

“The shows will be held at the historic The Bedford Pub in Balham – SW London. The cabaret club is situated at the back inside the building and it’s on the ground floor. The venue is fully accessible with accessible toilets and it’s queer friendly. We are very happy to have got a residency offered until next November 2025, because The Bedford is the perfect materialisation of what we envisioned. The arena-like structure of the cabaret club is very intimate and recalls the shape of a cabinet of curios, so it will be like actually inviting the audience to step inside our cabinet and witness the chaos and weirdness within. Moreover, we have been given green lights for various props and mediums (liquid spills, fire) which were very important requirements for us as there is virtually no limit to what can happen on stage! It has been increasingly hard to find indie venues that allow fire indoors and are legit, so we are indeed very lucky.

Line ups haven’t been revealed yet, but we can give you and your readers an exclusive on the special guests who will join us respectively for Black Mass on September the 4th and Sanguine Supper on December the 3rd.

Black Mass will have an amazing performer travelling all the way from Berlin: Inga Salomé. Inga is our guarantee to deliver on our promise of blasphemy, filth, and theatricality. She’s charismatic, multi talented, and bold, inflaming stages all over Berlin  – also quite literally – and bringing weirdness and sensuality into a perverse mix.

Sanguine Supper, in December, is going to be the dark alternative to the traditional Christmas dinner, an immersive show dining experience with a side of terror. Think Vampire Ball, with prizes for best dressed, photo booth, and vendors. We’re very proud to announce the special guest who will crown our vampiric spectacle is the Vampire Queen herself, Dani Divine. We are humbled and honoured to have her on board and we can’t wait to see this marvellous gathering of creatures of the night under our roof!”

Cabinet Sinistro – Facebook

Interview by Gary Trueman

Photos Courtesy Of Cabinet Sinistro. (Feature image – Shot Is On)