Little Death Club
Underbelly Festival Southbank
Reviewed – 25th April 2019
“the collection of performers that were gathered at this cabaret were unbelievably talented”
Bernie Dieter’s Little Death Club is a celebration of us, a place to let loose and celebrate our differences and, if you’re the man in the third row, a place for you to get your face slammed in the crotch of Dieter herself.
As soon as you walked into the venue, reminiscent of a circus big top, you were hit with colour changing lights, smoke and a rocking band playing you to your seat. When the show started after a small delay, it was worth the wait. The audience was greeted first by the emcee Bernie Dieter, who began to sing before making her way into the audience on the prowl for a man, or many men. She talked about the importance of human connection, literally, as she straddled one man, head in crotch and grabbed four other men in a touching war. Dieter was able to draw in the audience from the moment she stepped onto the stage through her use of song and comedy.
As much as it was Dieter’s show, the collection of performers that were gathered at this cabaret were unbelievably talented, commanding the stage in their own right. Some stand out performers include Beau Sargent, a contortionist and aerial act who “blurs the lines of gender and preconception.” He performed two acts, one of which was twisting his body in positions that seem impossible. Then, towards the end of the show, he performed an emotional aerial act with Dieter singing behind him, the words, “is this the woman you thought you would grow to be” as Sargent took of his heels and weaved his way in and out of the flying ring. What seemed to be almost a commentary on queerness and freedom, or the lack thereof, was a nice break from the fire and nudity and all around debauchery.
Another stand out performer, was Fancy Chance (Veronica Thomson) who came out, fabric floating through the air as she swung her arms in a mesmerising manner. What started as a simple and beautiful act became an incredible and dangerous act of chance, being lifted up hanging only by her hair. She swung and spun through the air as the audience watched, necks craned and mouths opened. Her clothes were then ripped off in a comedic turn as she came down from the air before embracing her nude body and once again, leaping, full force, into the air.
The cabaret also included exciting performances from Myra Dubois, a comedic drag queen, Josh Glanc, a mime (who lamented about the cons of being a mime), and Kitty Bang Bang, a fire breathing goddess. This cast of performers each brought a genuine electric fire to the stage.
As the show ended, Dieter sent the crowd out into the London night, reinforcing the message that it is important, in this scary world we live in, to never let anyone tell us our differences are not to be celebrated.
Reviewed by Tobias Graham
Photography by Alistair Veryard
Little Death Club
Underbelly Festival Southbank until 23rd June
Previously reviewed at this venue:
Jonny Woo’s Un-Royal Variety
Reviewed -20th October 2018
“this annual festival is a joyous celebration of the scene in all its camp, disruptive naughty glory”
This is the third year for Jonny Woo’s queer, sexy, ribald, irreverent take on this most British of formats, and it’s clear that this fabulous evening has now rightly taken its place in London’s alternative social calendar. London now leads the world in queer performance, and this annual festival is a joyous celebration of the scene in all its camp, disruptive naughty glory. Jonny is the perfect host – witty, warm and salacious in equal measure – and Julian Smith’s costumes are delicious throughout. It is a long evening, at four hours, but the acts come fast and furious and are well-balanced enough that time flies by. This reviewer has to confess to being utterly disabled by laughter on more than one occasion – a treat indeed.
The whole show is cheerfully sweary from beginning to end, but there is a clear tonal arc to proceedings, and the second half is significantly filthier than the first. If you blanch at nudity and overt drug references, this is really not the night for you! After an explosive opening number, which sets the scene for the gender play throughout, the show begins with supremely professional high-camp drag from Myra Dubois. She opens the floodgates for the surge of talent to follow, and it is worth remembering that the energetic silliness of acts such as Garry Starr (Damien Warren-Smith’s brilliant comedy alter-ego), as well as the anarchic scratch-punk world of Christeene and Lucy McCormick, demand a high degree of artistic skill. Similarly, for those who might dismiss Lip Sync, Rhys Hollis’ mind-blowing routine – a fierce, sexy mash-up of Nicky Minaj, Missy Elliott and more – was a lesson in performance precision.
And there are voices too. From Sooz Kempner’s belting rendition of the Chorus Line favourite The Music and the Mirror, to the magnificent surprise of comedienne Jayde Adams’ huge operatic soprano, unleashed after her whip-smart comedy set, to Carla Lippis’ in-your-face and dangerous ‘I’m a Liar’, the Hackney Empire resounded with song throughout the evening. Special mention must also go here to the wondrous Theresa May choir – in splendid voice as well as being eye-wateringly funny. Laughter is nigh on continuous for the duration of the show, and every audience member will come away with highlights. Bourgeois & Maurice’s outrageous and lyrically brilliant take on overpopulation – Babies – and Mawaan Rizwan’s unique blend of song, dance and stand-up were personal favourites.
It is to Woo’s credit that important issues affecting the LGBTQIA+ community were woven in to the show’s glittering fabric – the importance of pronouns, trans equality, femme visibility and female visibility were all part of the tapestry. Equally, the terrific sketch between Le Gateau Chocolat and Adrienne Truscott was an affectionate poke at well-intentioned woke behaviour. The facility for self-parody is the surest sign of confidence, which Jonny Woo and this exceptional line-up exude from their pores. All Hail Their Majesties. Long May They Reign.
Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw
Photography by Studio Prokopiou
Jonny Woo’s Un-Royal Variety