REVIEW: Double R Club (London Wonderground 2014)

The Double R Club at London Wonderground 2014, reviewed by James Lee on August 2nd 2014.

For anyone unfamiliar with the Double R Club, it is a cabaret inspired by the work of David Lynch (though by no means restricted by it). Away from its usual home in the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, the Spiegeltent at London Wonderground is where the show transforms from a great cabaret show into something truly special. Seizing the opportunity presented by the larger space and fewer technical limitations, the show becomes a nightmarish theatrical experience in which the audience is a captive in a dark world tormented by twisted visions.

Guiding the audience through this dark and strange world is Benjamin Louche, by turns friend and tormentor. His links are crafted to near-perfection, every word chosen with care and spoken with precision, every sudden change of volume and mood calculated to toy with the audience as a cat would a mouse. Opening the second half by bellowing AC/DC’s She’s Got the Jack through a megaphone while oil-smeared dancers gyrate around him, it is clear that the show won’t be reigning in its excesses any time soon.

Benjamin Louche in The Double R Club at London Wonderground.  ©Juliet Shalam
Benjamin Louche in The Double R Club at London Wonderground. ©Juliet Shalam

The acts themselves seem not so much isolated performances as integral elements of a story the audience cannot hope to fully comprehend. Among the stand out performances is Laura Moody’s exquisitely unhinged performance, wringing extraordinary sounds from her cello and her voice to create a cacophony that is moving, disorienting and terrifying. Burlesque artist Missy Fatale delivers a decadent and stylish striptease with a twist. Traumata stalks onstage as a rope descends from above, hinting at terrible things and delivering by the bucketload, leaving quite a cleaning up job and a suitably traumatised audience watching through their fingers.

REVIEW: Double R Club at London Wonderground 2014.   ©Juliet Shalam
REVIEW: Double R Club at London Wonderground 2014. ©Juliet Shalam

There are perhaps one too many atmosphere pieces among the main performances; acts which create great atmosphere but never really reach a crescendo. Blanche Dubois’ disconcerting fractured narrative sets the mood well, though is over-ambitious with the lip-synching. Michael Wenlock’s faceless aerial acrobatics are incredible and draw gasps but don’t quite reach a peak. The Ungewinster opens the second half with ‘The Operator Underneath’, which is heavy on the sinister style but a little short on substance. All of which is frankly nitpicking.

REVIEW: Double R Club at London Wonderground 2014.   ©Juliet Shalam
REVIEW: Double R Club at London Wonderground 2014. ©Juliet Shalam

Towards the end, torch singer Em Brulée brings a moment of vulnerable beauty, pouring out her heart with every syllable, ending with a version Sycamore Trees – a song written by Lynch himself. It is a poignant contrast to the rest of the show, and yet as she stands alone in a dark room the sense of menace is ever present.

Snake Fervor in The Double R Club at London Wonderground.  ©Juliet Shalam
Snake Fervor in The Double R Club at London Wonderground. ©Juliet Shalam

That menace manifests in the final act, in the pale form of sideshow performer Snake Fervor. In such a large space her fire wicks seem almost lost at first, but it isn’t long before the stage is a tornado of flaming swords and huge gouts of fire, taking full advantage of the space to end the show with a bang.

This is the Double R at its best, a complete experience. The shorter running time also means there’s no sign of the quiz formats which tend to break the mood and momentum of the regular Double R shows. Those of a nervous disposition would be well-advised to steer clear, but for cabaret fans with a taste for the dark side and a reasonably strong stomach this is a must-see show.

Reviewed by James Lee.

You can experience Double R Club at London Wonderground on Saturday August 23rd. Visit this link for details and to buy tickets.

21st Century Burlesque
21st Century Burlesque

Quoted in major international newspapers and held in high esteem and affection by the international burlesque community, 21st Century Burlesque Magazine has documented the contemporary burlesque scene since 2007. Founded and edited by Holli-Mae Johnson.

1 Comment

Share your thoughts on this feature...