The Double R Club

Following last month’s first anniversary performance, The Double R Club returned last Thursday to the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club for another night of weird and wonderful burlesque and cabaret, influenced by the work of maverick filmmaker David Lynch.

The location could not have been more ideal for setting the Lynchian tone. With wood-panelled walls and a heart-shaped, oversized vanity mirror of red lights on stage, the setting looked like the bastard lovechild of Twin Peak’s log-cabined Great Northern Hotel, and the broken-down trashy glam of Wild at Heart. Such an impression was only compounded by the crinkle of prom-night golden foil backing the stage, and the cavities left by popped bulbs in the heart-shaped centrepiece.

Once the audience had settled down with their complimentary owl-shaped cookie and Special Agent Dale Cooper’s favourite coffee liquor, the night’s entertainment was introduced with theatrical panache by MC Benjamin Louche. Part Alan Cumming, part Dr. Caligari, Louche handled the night with consummate skill and flair, well-deserving of his self-designated epithet: “so fuckin’ suave”.

From witchlike triple breasts and Victorian parlour tricks, to tranny and looner acts, the night had something for everyone. Star turns from daredevil showgirl Missy Macabre andnaked raconteurErnesto Sarezalewere particular highlights. Sarezale’s oddly captivating anecdotes were related in a lilting, Latino-inflected accent that situated his omphalocentric tale of a belly-button left behind after a one-night-stand firmly within the realms of Magic Realism.

In contrast to Sarezale’s imaginative arabesques, Missy Macabre’s feats tested the limits of the physical. In a performance as ghoulish as it was arousing, Macabre walked across nails and broken glass, set fire to her flesh and even hammered a nail into her nose. A similar mixture of pleasure and revulsion was elicited by Marnie Scarlet’s grand finale, in which the jerking, red latex-clad burlesquer stabs open balloons covering her body to a soundtrack of eerie laughter byLost Highway’s Mystery Man (the uxoricidal Robert Blake).

The only fish in this delightful percolator of an evening was so-called magician/comedian Tennyson Hanbury. Belying any assumptions elicited by the literary allusions of his pseudonym, Hanbury’s tricks were little more than hooks for long-winded, woefully poor and boorish gags. At one point in his act, Hanbury rhetorically asks the audience if you can judge a person by their hairstyle, and, referring to his own smooth head, says, “do I look like a shaved vagina?” More than one person I talked to after the performance had to suppress the urge to shout out: “Yes Tennyson Hanbury, you are a bald twat.”

At the opposite end of the spectrum to Hanbury, Mat Ricardo opened the evening with a classy gent of an act. Dapper in a three-piece suit, Ricardo took a break from his Edinburgh comedy routine to wow the audience with balancing-block play and quite a way with a cigar. Other acts included performers from Lucha Britannia, who moonlighted as “Nadine Hurley and The Twin Peaks High School Wrestling Team”; Dale Cooper lookalike Des O’Connor (no, not that one), who tinkled the keys with jolly songs about decidedly politically incorrect topics; and the lovely Blanche Dubois, a drag act who lipsynched to Portishead’s Roads whilst writhing around, Laura Palmer-style, wrapped in plastic.

The Double R Club is a gem of an evening that seduces as it repulses, thrills as it shocks, and creates an atmosphere of demented community where audience participation is as crucial to the night as the performances. The majority of the crowd seemed to be return customers, and you can be certain that come next month’s third Thursday, I too will be one of them.

The Double R Club. Organized by Miss Rose Thorne. Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, London. 18 November, 21:00. £10.

Photos by Izaskun Gonzales

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