One of the many perks of life at Erotic Review is the occasionally atypical things one receives in the post. On returning home last week my front door was stoppered by a heavy package: this’ll be something tax-y, I thought gloomily, as the paper came off. Underneath lay a smart blue cover, bare except for one word that, in my haste to see what was inside, I didn’t spot. Turning to the first page there’s a print of Adam and Eve, all flora and fauna and Eden and bliss. Except that curled around Eve’s neck is what on first glance appears to be the serpent, but is – of course – a double-ended penis the size of a piece of construction tubing. There are 40 items included in the rare-book collector Simon Finch’s catalogue. It’s called Eroticism, and all pieces have been taken from a collection of over 300 works squirrelled away lovingly over the years. Finch tells the story of arriving at an old bookseller’s while at university and noticing the enormous stacks of erotica, which the seller didn’t want to catalogue and which Finch subsequently took home in two creaking vans…
After getting lost amongst the hipsters of Shoreditch and wrongly asking directions to “The Glory Hole”, Erotic Review stumbled across Baby Lame’s Shit Show downstairs at The Glory pub. Entering through a staircase plastered in shiny gold foil, we were greeted by the “PUNK-HORROR-DRAG cabaret monstrosity” that is Baby Lame, and various others in genderless, trashtastic costumes. Perching against a wall amongst a throng of young hip people, No Doubt blasting the speakers, we were treated to a collection of weirdly wondrous and straight up crude cabaret.
Adapted from Michael Lewis’s book of the same name, The Big Short is an education in what caused the 2008 financial crisis. It’s informative about without being patronising, and unveils the moral realities of the financial world without being preachy. The flashes of genius in the soundtrack and editing are slicker than the most expensive suits on Wall Street. It is a boisterous, irreverent and intelligent romp.
What if I told you an inconvenient truth; that a flourishing, unwavering feminist movement was an unanticipated consequence of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. This is the starting point of Jewels of Allah, the Untold Story of Women in Iran, a book recently published by Nina Ansary. It is inspired by Ansary’s academic work, researching the feminist movement in post-revolutionary Iran for a PhD in Columbia University. She lists a series of misconceptions about Iranian women in the first chapter and goes after them one by one, trying to rectify the stereotypical assumptions. It was her book trailer video that I saw first, a very emotive film that made me choke (watch here).
Based on Ewan Morrison’s first novel, Swung follows David and Alice as they deal with erectile dysfunction and its causes. Areas of blame are evident; David, who has recently been made redundant is a father going through a divorce. While trying to sign up for the dole, he is distracted by a swingers site. When his new girlfriend, Alice, finds the offending page up on his laptop, she begins to research the underground world of swinging in a bid to find something that will sustain David’s hard-on.
The tricky thing about burlesque is that one never knows if it's going to be terrible. It's gathered new audiences in the past decade, and has become more widespread as a style of performance. It's relatively new (not to ER, of course, fnar) but to theatrical companies who might have cottoned onto a winner and started to dabble the proverbial toe. So yes, a blossoming industry – helped along by a renewed interest in cabaret and variety shows – but a spit and shoe polish enterprise nonetheless, which in my book makes it that much more impressive when it's pulled off. And this is – Chic Bonbons is entertaining, it's sexy and it's fun.
Murphy, an American film student in his early 20s is living with his partner, Omi, and their child in Paris as he laments the breakup with his ex-girlfriend, Elektra. He receives a voicemail from Elektra’s mother telling him that she’s gone missing. Instead of going out to look for his ex, he indulges in a set of opium-induced flashbacks.
Remember the fairytale about the girl and the penis bush? No, me neither. But the premises of the nine and a half “fairytales” in Grow A Pair are swollen with surreal eroticism and a weird, lavish imagination. As well as harking back to horny early puberty fantasies, the stories in Joanna Walsh’s collection also resound with tender-hearted humour, aimed at adults whose sexual flights of fancy has been curtailed to the “most private thing I’m willing to admit” field on an internet dating site. Grow A Pair is a short story collection a little like The Bloody Chamber after a couple of gins. ‘A girl passed a penis-bush growing in someone else’s garden, and picked a ripe dick because she couldn’t resist it’ – it grins at you from page one.
I have found yet another evidence that London is the centre of the world. This time it is a book of images from Lebanon, curated and brought together by a Pole. A Lebanese Archive is a collection of images from the personal collection of of Lebanese emigre Diab Alkarssifi. Most of them are anonymous, giving the book a ghostly quality, yet making it a window into lives of others. The others that we may never get to know, but we, in this book, get the chance to see them frozen in a frame.
Measure for Measure is more than what critics have dubbed a "problem play" – it's completely baffling, and a brave choice for any director to try and tackle. Joe Hill-Gibbins' production is very Young Vic – alternative, edgy, and starring an extended cast of about a hundred blow-up sex dolls. Vienna lies in moral tatters, and the Duke is horrified. He privately elects to go about disguised, telling Angelo, his deputy, to pull the city's socks up in his absence. Meanwhile Claudio, a young man accused of lechery, is thrown into the stocks to await the death sentence. His sister, the convent-girl Isabella, begs Angelo for mercy – and is denied it, unless she commits the very act for which her brother is condemned. She refuses.