The Tassel Club
When ER last reviewed The Tassel Club, our verdict was less than complimentary. However, many of our grumbles were aimed at the inadequacies of the faux-vintage ‘elegant new City destination’ (the very concept makes one shudder) Proud Cabaret. So it seemed only fair to give compere Sara Colohan and her troupe another chance to impress now that they occupy the more desirable Bathhouse of a Thursday evening.
Despite nestling amongst the fairly uninspiring surrounds of City skyscrapers, the Bathhouse is a beautiful Victorian Turkish bath, the original 1890s tiling and eccentric décor of which lent an atmosphere of vintage exoticism to the evening. This setting particularly complemented dancer Leah Debrincat’s performance as she wowed the audience with her sultry belly dancing. Debrincat’s fluid, snakish movements are as hypnotising as a python’s eye, luring the audience’s unblinking gaze – only when I managed to stop staring at her enviably toned abs could I take in her incredible tattoos and the distanced, serpentine persona she created.
Fifi Fatale, the evening’s first striptease, highlighted one problem with The Tassel Club’s new venue: the stage upon which she disrobed was, unfortunately for those seated at the back, obscured by pillars, a piano, the technician’s sound and lighting boards, tables, people; every time one visual obstacle was overcome another presented itself. As Fifi sat to seductively remove her stockings, the presumable eroticism of the moment was marred by the fact that all I could see was the odd arm or leg waving above the heads in front of me.
But this is a dinner party, and while the action is at the other end of the room, those not reviewing the show are able to tuck into their deserts and share a conversation. I realise that part of the appeal of supper clubs is that one can dip in and out of the entertainment, but it was a shame that some performances were overlooked because of the inconvenient layout. Teeny-tiny and impeccably dainty contortionist Pixie Le Knot’s impossible body-bending drew gasps from the audience nearby. She was unable, due to the nature of her performance, to move around the room, and so many viewers could not take in her twists and folds.
However, this problem was overcome by the inclusion of a performance area at each end of the room, allowing closer interaction with the audience – Betsy Rose, for instance, swooped her purple fans through the tables, flirting and removing items of clothing as she went. (While enchanting, this did cause me some angst: I had visions of fans catching on the tea lights dotted around or sending wine bottles flying into the laps of patrons.) The Tassel Club‘s strength lay in its intimacy: the acts engaged with the audience in the tight space. Singer Joanne Jollie’s belting renditions of suave classics Fever, Feeling Good and Big Spender were electrifying, reaching the hidden nooks and crannies of every far-flung ear. It is testimony to the atmosphere created that the furthest table stood whooping and cheering; eighteen year old boy-debutante Doug Edwards received a particularly rowdy welcome from folk of the female persuasion. A shirtless Doug performed an impressive hand-balancing act on metal canes, holding his muscled body in gravity defying poses as his legs brushed the ceiling’s drapes and dangling glitter ball.
The evening’s star was undoubtedly Sophia St. Villier. This irresistible lady has already been panted over at length by Erotic Review’s very own Copstick, but I am going to add my own heavy breaths to the mix. St. Villier delicately shimmied and strutted her way around the room, soaking up the audience’s adoration. She teased her clothes off slowly, playing peekaboo with a ten-foot boa. She caused paroxysms of joy in the spectators she enlisted to assist her with the removal of a stocking. She was divine – her body and her act. I was only marginally more envious of the glitter poured over her body from a champagne bottle than of the lady chosen to help her remove her layers. St. Villier was ideal for this venue; she had a presence that kept all eyes on her, yet still managed to make the individuals she coiled her boa around feel the like the centre of her (I suspect rather ribald) universe.
The Tassel Club has benefited from a change of venue. A touch of verifiable Victoriana adds a friendly, rather than faddish, feel to the proceedings, and the performance space has the power to create a cosy intimacy. We’ll never know whether Ms. Colohan took heed of the Erotic Review’s initial reservations, but her Tassel Club is a place I’d happily return to, to sit back and enjoy all the steaminess you’d expect from a Turkish bathhouse.
The Tassel Club: The Dinner Party. Hosted by Sarah Colohan. The Bathhouse, Bishopsgate Churchyard, London. Thursdays, 20:00-22:45. £15-£45. www.thetasselclub.com
Photo credits: Steve Gong (Pixie Le Knot), others courtesy of the performers