Lynchian Cabaret and Burlesque at The Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, 15th November.
The Double R Club brings to the stage London’s most daring and alluring cabaret performers, aiming to transport an eccentric audience into a world of dreams and nightmares inspired by none other than David Lynch. Once a month, this strange set of vaudevillians embraces the darkest and most disturbing traits of Lynch’s work, bringing them to life under the raunchy red lights of The Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club.
Twin-Peaks-inspired floorboards and red velvet curtains welcome me as I step into the venue. I know I’m in for some twisted and surreal entertainment, but no amount of self-control could adequately prepare me for the performances which are about to unfold on the dimly lit stage. Benjamin Louche, the compere of this extraordinary show, steps into the spotlight – or rather, creates the spotlight, as he holds in his hand a strobe which intermittently lights up his face. He smiles maliciously and invites us to abandon reality and succumb to absurdity, assuring us that in order to remain sane we must accept the illogical and embrace the absurd. Sensuous jazz music envelops the darkened room and the show commences.
The Double R Club features a tantalising mixture of burlesque, stand-up comedy, live music, surreal monologues and a series of sinister acts which can’t simply be placed into a specific category.I wonder if in the description of the event there should be a sort of “not for the faint-hearted” warning, but I suppose with the show being inspired by David Lynch and all it goes unsaid that you’re in for quite the unusual experience. One can expect laughter and hilarious skits, but also acts ranging from full-on nudity, escapology, strange choreography, whip cracking, political incorrectness and eroticism, all the way to masochism, sadism, sexism, blood and even deformity. Spectators experience both beauty and brutality, against a backdrop of eerie yet seductive music.
I’m not going to go into the details of what exactly I saw that night, mainly because it would be nowhere near as traumatic as the real thing, and also because I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun. After all, The Double R Club is fun. For the majority of the time you find yourself laughing out loud, in between which you sometimes feel terrified, aroused or unsure as to how to react. I’ve always thought that to be able to shock today’s twenty-first century audience would be an almost impossible feat. As a culture, we are accustomed to frequent exposure to offensive language, to almost perverse nudity, to the bleakest of humour, to rude lyrics, lewd cinema, various atrocities and acts of subversive nature. Generally speaking (in Western society), today’s young audience no longer has any taboos regarding sex, religion, politics, crime and so forth. As much as artists have been trying to shake public opinion, recent works of art (of all forms, including performance art) rarely have the same impact on people as scandalous artwork could have in the past centuries. Thanks to society, we’ve grown into adults capable of accepting almost anything, hardly ever shocked, hardly ever surprised.
Yet The Double R Club manages to arouse reactions similar to those that shook the conservative, narrow-minded, back-in-the-day audiences. People feel the urge to look away, gasps of disbelief rise from the seats and by the end of the night, some women have even fainted. You go to a David Lynch inspired cabaret show, and you expect surrealism, grotesque performances and eroticism – you know what you’re in for. Or so you tell yourself. In retrospect, I don’t know if it makes any difference how familiar you are with David Lynch (although I haven’t seen many of his films myself), and I don’t think it makes a big difference how indifferent to provocations you think you are. The Double R Club sets out to shock and disturb you, and this is exactly what it does. Come midnight, and the show is over, and you find yourself speechless. There is nothing anyone can say to follow such a performance, apart from take a deep breath of air and try and make sense of what you’ve just witnessed. Only, as Louche states introducing the performance, you have to let the absurdity of it take control over you. There is no sense to be made. And so I get back on the tube and journey home through the night with the images of those few hours moulded deep into my muddled mind.
The Double R Club returns on Thursday January 17th, 2013