Louche By Name, Louche by Nature? Fraulein Sasha de Suinn reviews The Double R Club@Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club. 4 Stars! The Dark Palace Of Depraved Delights!
Never heard of Benjamin Louche? You will. Arguably, he’s queer London’s most audacious cabaret compere, opening not just shows, but doors to entire, beautifully warped, worlds. But don’t, ever, expect the bland idiocies of Narnia junkies – Louche is more Hellraiser than Aslan, and manically drags willing souls to extreme limits.
In collaboration with his partner, Rose Thorne, Louche, triumphantly, has made the monthly Double R Club a fierce, simply unmissable, queer crown jewel. But unlike far too many, clone-grown, show-tunes on sedatives hosts, Louche – in voice, image and content -is shockingly memorable.
Ever seen Blue Velvet, David Lynch’s deeply disturbing, baroque autopsy of small-town Americana? Join the club – just like Benjamin Louche. Fanatically devoted to Lynch’s work, Louche, quite precisely, has channelled Dean Stockwell’s ‘Ben’, a psychopathic Roy Orbison aficionado.
Charmingly, Ben’s given to beating people senseless, but with such deathly aplomb – in ruffled shirt and cummerbund – that you’d whimper, most gratefully, for further pain. And that perverse dynamic’s exquisitely mirrored here – we whimper, most gratefully, for further excess.
Ah, but we’ve forgotten one crucial safeguard – Louche simply uses Ben as a starting point. So – like the helpless victims in the ‘Saw’ movies – we’re strapped irretrievably in, for a long, possibly deranging ride.
No wonder; any slightest glimpse – no matter how brief – at the Double R’s front-man – is enough to provoke instant disquiet and precarious sanity. All pure, Bohemian Viagra from tip to toe, Louche irresistibly violates every orifice of the audience’s imagination. How could he not?
With manic, staring, kohl-ringed eyes as shockingly bloated as the freshest corpse, and cheekbones slashing deeper than the most loving, serial killer’s knife, Louche is living, Salvador Dali perversion. No wonder we’re all instantly, helplessly in love – and that’s before Louche offers up his pleasures for the night.
But the Double R Club, of course, is a safe space for revelatory R&D – research and development – a total testing ground for every twisted troubadour possible.
So, firstly, we’re treated to the musical stylings of Rhyannon Styles, all wordless, if awesome, electric guitar reverb. Eerily blue-lit throughout, Styles, quite effortlessly, invokes the frenzied incest-child of spaghetti-Western king Ennio Morricone and moody, gangster guitar guru Link Wray. Beautifully edgy and unsettling, Styles, surely, is a stellar talent on the very cusp on slow-burn acclaim.
Then there’s Dusty Limits, a generic, if briskly efficient, Thin White Duke-period Bowie clone. With a warm, pleasant tenor’s voice, he dispenses angsty ditties suggestive of Jacques Brel, if acidly rewritten by Noel Coward and Cole Porter. But unquestionably, the killer epicentre of tonight’s Double R Club is the simmering malice of female performance artist, Traumartyr.
Initially seeming of indeterminate sex, she brilliantly inverts cheesy, heterosexual strip-tease conventions by indignantly, slowly disrobing with utter contempt for eroticism. With breasts masked by stark, white X’s of adhesive tape, and vast, Bridget Jones knickers, she simply stands…until her scalp, an almost unbearable sight, trickles with dripping blood.
Stated that baldly, Traumartyr’s act might seem uninspired and positively minimalist to jaded souls, but her astounding, onstage intensity simply rivets any wandering attention. Like a living, post-cubist, Picasso mask of icy disdain, Traumartyr’s the concrete, performance proof that less is more.
Tragically, illness – and a need for immediate medication – stopped your writer relishing the full bill of the Double R’s delights, but even so, I’m hooked. Quite probably, for life. Safe and secure in the loveliest, Blue Velvet strait-jacket.
The next Double R Club is Thursday, 18th February @ Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club. Tickets: www.wegottickets.com
by Fraulein Sasha De Suinn | @MsSashaDarling