I’ve never been to a Swingers party before, but this gets pretty close. Here, House of Kittens – champions of erotic and immersive storytelling – tempt their guests below ground at the newly reopened Wellington Members Club for a night of sensual theatre. Tonight, is a supposed celebration of female sexuality. Sequined nipple tassels cast steamy shadows on the walls, with a raised stage steeped in blue light. Audience members hug the perimeter of the room, their commitment to the dress code commendable.
Some wear masks, others, leather harnesses. There is a lady bedecked in a veil and red lipstick to match the trousers of her companion, with only a stethoscope draped about his shoulders. A faint script is also stickered to the lapels of various partygoers. “Yes Please”, it reads invitingly. Some broadcast the message without help – one particular gentleman (characterised by a chronic wandering eye despite having arrived avec girlfriend), proceeds to fix the words to his forehead. In a word: eager.
This is a crowd to laugh in the face of The Fourth Wall – they want to get involved. It is a shame then, that despite its risqué objectives, any participatory elements showcased within Amatory Asylum mean that the event isn’t so much naughty, as nice. Our host – a moustachioed Drag King with a plunging neckline and top hat – prowls about the space. “Oh, they come to you,” he says of the performers, with a little wink. Kinky, maybe. But in terms of the unspoken contract drawn between participant and cast, means that the piece flies at half-mast. That isn’t a euphemism – in order to achieve full immersivity, one has to go to them. Alas, what follows is a series of performative vignettes, with a surprise lap dance here, an exhibitionist, there.
That said, House of Kittens know how to have fun. Each episode is crafted by a set of obscure fetishes. Nouns such as: katoptronophilia, voyeurism and stygiophilia run across the surface of a two-way mirror, bookending each piece. This is particularly innovative, with the space beyond playing host to the most powerful moments of the evening. Choreographed with burlesque roots, the company move deftly, bodies clad in show-stopping lingerie. Meow.
Amatory Asylum is sexy in the extreme. Notes of pleasure and desire mix with the sweet smell of gin hanging in the air. Fizz leaps from glasses and onto bare skin, a bubbling of chatter rousing and constant. Despite this, it is impossible to ignore how similar each segment looks and sounds. Worryingly, this homogeneity also applies to the audience, which gives the event an air of exclusivity. Perhaps this is evocative of its setting, but in doing so, the troupe seem to forfeit their feminist (and other inclusive) intentions. So, contrary to the heart stamped on the inside of my right wrist, I liked the production, but didn’t love it.
Amatory Asylum is playing at the Wellington Members Club until 1 November. For more information and tickets, visit the House of Kittens website.