A Cabaret Of Dark Satanic Thrills

The Double R Club, London Wonderground ★★★☆☆

Franco Milazzo
By Franco Milazzo Last edited 39 months ago
A Cabaret Of Dark Satanic Thrills The Double R Club, London Wonderground 3
Chrisalys appearing in The Double R Club, London Wonderground 2015 by Sin Bozkurt.

London can’t claim too many shows with the impressive longevity and sheer depravity of the East End-based Double R Club. Next month, it celebrates its sixth anniversary and their outings this summer to the London Wonderground have many of the hallmarks that explain its enduring appeal.

Helmed by co-producer Benjamin Louche, this is a David Lynch-inspired variety experience that is certainly not for the faint-hearted or those who prefer their cabaret on the happy-clappy side of things.

Here, the commonplace becomes creepy and vice versa. The quirky and creepy touches are everywhere. The programme has a running order alongside a cocktail recipe. The music is less fairground and more an aural battery from the depths of hell. This is a show set out by design to give your nightmares their own nightmares.

As corny as it sounds, Louche really is the compère sans compare. This psychopomp’s signature monologues evoke a variety of dark imagery and ideas and set the tone for what it is to immediately follow. And what follows is never short on ambition. As opposed to the usual cabaret carousel where performers reuse the same routines over and over at different shows, the Double R Club is the place where established artists re-interpret old material or create new work, all moulded to a general Lynchian theme.

Two acts stand out above others. Chrisalys (pictured above) is among the UK’s finest all-round vaudevillians: he takes his mastery of airborne acrobatics, sideshow and fire and swivels them all up a notch, adding theatrical touches of real genius to create macabre vignettes. After some scene-setting of his own, Chrisalys turns in an inspired aerial routine aboard an upside-down hospital bed. On descending, a dreamlike sequence ends with him repeatedly beating himself around the face with a bloodily-smeared two-foot long dildo. You don’t see that every day.

Of equal note is the closer to the first half. An unnamed suited figure drags onto the stage a white body bag before walking off. A few tense moments later, unbilled performer Fancy Chance emerges from the bag, a nude figure connected to the Spiegeltent roof by a single rope attached only to her dark locks. She is gently hoisted upwards, whereupon she flies and cavorts above the audience in a display of the spectacular and hazardous practice of hair-hanging.

There is an abundance of style throughout but there is also a shortage of substance in places. The brutal and fiery finale between Heavy Metal Pete and Snake Fervour is a violence-heavy number which is far less than the sum of the parts. Malik Ibheis's manic miming is wonderful to watch but, shorn of context or introduction, is a baffling sight.

Where the show further falls down is in the biased direction. Their usual monthly shows are held at the Bethnal Green’s Working Men’s Club but the Wonderground version of the Double R Club is set in the round. Unfortunately, around a third of the acts here are focussed towards the front of the house and hence lose much or all of their potency for large parts of the audience. On home turf, the Double R Club is still the finest example of dark cabaret in town and, should you dare, a visit to one of their regular shows is highly recommended.

See the next Double R Club night at Bethnal Green Working Men's Club, 42-44 Pollard Row, E2 6NB, on 17 September. Tickets £10. Londonist saw this production on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 11 August 2015