Relinquish any preconceptions, get rid of your boundaries and prepare yourself to be fully immersed into the mad world of kaberett. Walking into the spiegeltent, a venue at the Underbelly Festival Southbank, the exquisite “mistress of mayhem” Bernie Dieter is sitting on stage watching the audience filter in, soon to be at her mercy. The feeling in the tent already gives way to what is in store tonight. With a short show of 60 minutes, Little Death Club throws at you all it’s got, and it’s got a hell of a lot. A Flame eater, aerial ballet dancer, drag queen, mime and hair hanger (who knew this was a thing?) make up this unlikely but enthralling troupe all led by the beguiling Dieter.
The show kicks off with one of many hilarious but surprisingly soulful numbers, such as the shameless ‘Lick My Pussy’ (an instinctive reaction to Dieter flirting with an audience member). Tom Velvick, creative director, remarks at the importance of the show’s original music. It brings even more uniqueness to a performance already teeming with individuality. The live band work with each performer, transforming the stage act after act and matching the tone of every piece. But Dieter is what holds this all together. Alongside Velvick, Dieter is the mastermind behind the magic. Her heart and soul were poured into the conception of Little Death Club, her sheer presence as a songbird and host is irresistible, it is only inevitable that the audience should want to become a part of her creation.
The songs are only a glimpse at this world of vice, nudity and lewd language. Dieter connects with every audience member, drawing on those who dare to look away and excitedly exclaiming that “the shy ones are always the kinkiest”. The performance only gets better from there as she climbs over the crowd giving names to various unsuspecting men, “funky shirt, beardy, jumper and shaven haven” all become her subordinates, touching her where instructed and then touching each other. It is chaotic bliss, a hilarious passage towards acceptance. The freaks are out and supporting one another in a mismatched show that celebrates everyone and everything. There’s even some fire breathing thrown in for good measure.
But what really makes this show spectacular is the incredible talent demonstrated on stage. Beau Sargent’s body contortions will blow you away. Not only is he able to hold himself up by the back of his neck on a hoop hung from the ceiling, but he simultaneously demonstrates a raw and genuine vulnerability. Breaking the mould of what it means to be strong is only one of the many abilities demonstrated by the cast; Myra Dubois, unapologetically sassy comedian and drag queen dominates the tent, taking no prisoners but all the laughter. Fancy Chance practices terrifying raw strength as she hangs from the ceiling by her hair, becoming an angelic flying figure. It needs to be seen to be believed, and I don’t think I’ll get the privilege of seeing anything quite like it again any time soon.
Little Death Club is playing until 23 June. For more information and tickets, visit the Underbelly Festival Southbank website.