Bernie Dieter’s Little Death Club at the Underbelly Festival on the Southbank is a critically acclaimed show that brings us a debauched, gender-bending, satirical performance driven by a celebration of “difference in all its forms”. Directed by Tom Velvick, inspired by Weimar Kabarett and written and led by Bernie Dieter, this edgy variety show is an amalgam of cabaret, sideshow and vaudeville, with a contemporary spin. It shreds stereotypical notions of gender and performativity, urging us to let loose.
As we spiral into this seductive and escapist realm, we are met with many forms of theatre: circus, drag, mime, dance and stripping. The hour-long show shape-shifts as we are met with different—often abruptly introduced and unpredictable—acts; a conscious decision allowing for freedom in the performance structure itself. This is Little Death Club’s ethos: to express oneself and experiment with one's own identity along the way. It lures us in, unwinds our tired social conventions, and takes us into a long-winded rip into the world of the playful and the sexual.
The witty and empowered Bernie Dieter carries the show, merging hilarious original songs with risqué satire; the stiletto-styled and sequin-studded Queen of Weimar Punk has performed in Spiegeltents (travelling performance tents) all over the world. As we enter the performance, we immediately notice a clear lack of the fourth wall. Audience members are pulled at random to participate, and even the force of our applause is (rather cleverly) likened to an orgasm: 'we’re not even looking into each other’s eyes anymore', pleads Dieter, jokingly. Though, beneath her sexual double entendres and attempts—all successful—at making audience members stroke each other, lies an essential message which stresses the importance of human connection.
Other notable performers include, Beau Sargent, the elastic aerial ballet dancer, who transcends gender with his many contortions, stretching his body and creating shapes with his limbs. He even goes so far as to holding his body weight by balancing his neck on a hula hoop attached to the ceiling. The fluidity of his movements are poetic, and his sparkly costume makes him look like a delicate doll. Fancy Chance, who has performed with La Clique and La Soiree, shocks us with supporting her body weight with her hair (yes, really!), as she swings above the stage like a pendulum. Kitty Bang-Bang is fearlessly fire-breathing, thrilling the audience; Josh Glans is hilarious, with an endearing performance of mime; Myra Dubois, the renowned drag queen, graces the stage with her presence, enchanting and humouring us with her ‘songbird’ voice.
Little Death Club is a show that needs to be seen to be understood. No review will do the unconventional experience justice. I would recommend going a little tipsy...
Little Death Club is on at the Underbelly Festival Southbank till the 23rd of June and tickets are available here.
Edited by Evangeline Stanford, Digital Editor