The Spooky Review Part 2 – Drag Race screening party, Hustle wrestling and Milk Halloween Ball

As promised, the October events just keep on coming! I’m not complaining – but I am looking forward to a November lay-in.

On Thursday, I went with Alix to watch the latest episode of Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK at the Clapham Grand. I felt it was only appropriate to get dragged up for the occasion.

The screening was held in a small bar at the top of the venue, that was merrily decked out in rainbow flags and glitter, with a large (slightly bent) cut-out of Ru Paul overseeing the proceedings. I have to admit, I hadn’t watched any of the series and so had to do some crash preparations – my conclusion is that my personal favourites are Kitty Scott Claws and Charity Case (I do like kitties and charity shops) but I have a soft spot for Scarlett Harlett. We grabbed a bottle of wine and settled down in a corner to watch.

Before the show, the amazing Grace Shush sang a version of Someone Like You with lyrics changed to reflect the difficulties of being an Adele impersonator since her recent weight loss. I wish I could remember the lyrics – you’ll have to trust me that they were great.

The episode itself was very funny but the highlight of the screening was when, just after an emotional queen announced that she had ‘something to say’, the connection broke down and the screen froze. I felt bad for the VJ as she had to fix the technical difficulties while the gathered audience howled in frustrated anticipation. Unfortunately, one of my favourites was eliminated (sorry, spoilers) but the Grand gave everyone complimentary shots so it wasn’t a total *ehem* drag.

Ricardo and I have been working our way through all the ‘Halloween’ series, so went to see Halloween Kills at the cinema on Friday. The less said about that awful waste of two hours, the better.

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Saturday was a double whammy, starting with meeting Alix for a delicious dinner of wine and Okra stew. We then went to see Ricardo in the Halloween Hustle wrestling show at Collage Arts. It was my first time at a Hustle house show and I really liked the venue. The show was well-paced with a rammed card. As this was Ricardo’s first time on a Hustle show, it was fun to watch the audience react to him and I started a ‘Quack Quack Quack’ chant to cheer him on.

I was very overdressed for a wrestling show, as we had to head straight to Milk’s Halloween Ball after. It was great to be back at Milk (which was one of our last nights out before the pandemic) and see all the friendly faces (and other bits of them).

For a change, the whole of the King’s Head was taken over by Milk (which is normally based in the basement bar) and there were amazing acts happening on all floors. Ricardo was dressed as a Trash Cat (a raccoon covered in garbage bags) and I basically just wore a spooky cape over a sparkly swimsuit. We were both very tired but enjoyed some amazing acts including the divine Miss Sugar Rush and had a few tasty rum cocktails before calling a cab and calling it a night. We had to be up bright and early to see our friend Auburn in Brick Lane for a spot of brunch and vintage shopping.

Tim Curry in Manchester: For the Love of Horror Convention

I have been obsessed with Rocky Horror Picture Show since I was a teenager. I remember first seeing it as a child and being intrigued by its plot structure and indie vibe; the sex and horror went over my head. As a teen, I was attempting my first character cosplay. Fast forward to now, I have appeared in the shadow cast as Brad and/or Janet, and have a tattoo of Dr Frank on the infamous lips on my thigh.

As soon as I saw that Tim Curry would be appearing at UK event For the Love of Horror, I knew I had to go, no matter the (quite pricey) cost. His attendance was announced in early 2021, when the future was very uncertain (Would the world be open? Would we survive?) but I took a gamble and booked tickets.The event rolled around and amazingly, it seemed to all be going almost as planned – a few guests cancelled, including Meatloaf for health reasons and Lil Nell Campbell, who was unable to leave Australia. How exciting!

For the Love of Horror (@ftlohorror) | Twitter

I travelled from London to Manchester on the Friday before the event, where I met my room mate for the next few days, Sasha. We had tickets to watch the 5pm matinee of DeathDrop at the Lowry so we went straight there with our luggage and settled in. I had originally had tickets to see the play for my birthday, but unfortunately the cast fell ill and the show was cancelled – so it was quite a treat to finally see it.

Death Drop Salford Tickets, The Lowry, 13th Oct 2021 | Ents24

The star-studded cast included not only Ru-Paul US drag legends Willam (in the most hypnotically sparkly dress I have ever seen) and Ra’Jah O’Hara, but also UK Ru-girl Vinegar Strokes, Drag Race Down Under’s Karen from Finance plus some amazing talent I hadn’t seen before: writer Holly Stars, plus Richard Energy and Georgia Frost. With the tag line ‘Murder can be such a Drag… literally’, the plot is a play on the Mouse Trap; the show is set in 1991, when outrageous guests arrive on Tuck Island for a Diana and Charles anniversary dinner party. As their numbers (death)drop, secrets are revealed about their past – and it is fair to say that I didn’t guess who the murderer was. It was a thoroughly enjoyable show, I laughed continuously, and the entire cast excelled themselves – I bought the tshirt and would happily go again.

After the show, we headed to our hotel room and got set up for an early morning. My experience of conventions is that queues can take much longer than expected, so it is always wise to be early. I chose to wear a Rocky Horror cosplay of Trixie, the Usherette character originated by Patricia Quinn in the original 1973 London Cast Royal Court Theatre production. I assumed there would be a lot of more well known characters like Franks and Columbias and was rewarded to be the only Trixie at the event that I saw.

After waking up early and getting ready, we headed by tram to the venue, meeting new con friends Amber and Jake en route. My original plan was to be in the venue for Matthew Lillard’s 9.55 photo op, but unfortunately we were still queuing outside the venue until after 11am – so we immediately joined the queue to meet Tim Curry. The queue went surprisingly fast, not least because we met so many lovely Rocky fans while waiting (including Michael, the best Frank cosplayer of the weekend, in my opinion). Mr Curry (who we briefly saw being wheeled into the venue) had his own room away from the main convention, with large screens projecting his famous movie roles, and music playing from Rocky Horror.

By the time I reached the front of the queue, I was thoroughly excited. I asked Mr Curry how he was and he asked me about what I had on offer in my tray (last night’s takeaway rubbish) – I told him he was welcome to anything he fancied which he didn’t take me up on. The experience was short but pleasant and I then shifted to the side to pick up my printed photo. Unfortunately since then, some trolls have commented on my photo that he looks unhappy, which has put a slight damper on my memory.

My next port of call was to meet Matthew Lillard, who I first loved as Shaggy in Scooby Doo, but have since adored in Scream, Hackers and Serial Mom. I have recently gained extra respect for him having found out he has voiced Shaggy in the cartoon since the lie action movies but was unceremoniously dumped from the franchise for the recent animated movie Scoob! and the first he heard was when the finished movie was announced, which he handled with great grace on social media. Anyway, I queued up, was in the wrong queue, queued up again and then finally got to meet him.

Again, we only had seconds, in which time he asked me who I was dressed as – I said ‘Rocky Horror’ *camera click* ‘Oh yes I should have got that! Magenta!’ ‘Yes.. but no… kinda’ – the character I was dressed as was played by Patricia Quinn who played Magenta… but it wasn’t the same character but I really didn’t have time to explain it. Anyway, he seemed very nice.

I bought tickets to meet Patricia Quinn (Magenta/Trixie) and Barry Bostwick (Brad) but the Scream photos and signings overran so I decided to just go chat at their tables instead of waiting for the official photo booths to be set up. This turned out to be a good decision as it allowed a much more personal experience. Barry Bostwick absolutely sparkled and teased me about my paranoia of smudging my lipstick by making eye contact and rubbing his chin purely to wind me up. Patricia Quinn, whose table was next door, seemed to like my costume and discussed how much she loved Mark Kermode (I had tickets to his live show, but fell ill and then found out she had been the month’s special guest – just my luck). These more natural and human interactions will be my fondest memories of the convention.

We went for some dinner with Sah and Ed near MediaCity and popped back to the hotel for a quick freshen up before the afterparty. Unfortunately, due to the popularity of the Scream murderers Matthew Lillard and Skeet Ulrich, everything was running behind schedule so the Rocky Horror experience was delayed by an hour, but it was worth the wait. A reduced cast perfomed almost all the songs from the musical, with intermittent scenes and dialogue – the cast were really very good, and I think this was the best non-Tim Curry Frank I have seen. It was a very lovely way to wrap up a Rocky Horror-heavy day.

On the Sunday, after popping the airport for Sasha’s 2 Day test, we returned to the con to take some photos in the amazing sets and browse the market stalls. I think I was very controlled to only come away with two magnets.

We then headed into central Manchester to see Andy (my Doomscroller podcast co-host) for the first time since the pandemic hit. They suggested we met at a lovely theatre/pub called the Kings Head which I instantly adored because a) they have a friendly and charismatic pub cat called Charlie who features in a lot of the art on the walls and b) they run a regular knitting and crochet group. It was a lovely, relaxing change of pace and we got to meet Andy’s castmates in the forthcoming horror play Phase. We had a relaxing dinner out and an early night.

On Monday, after getting our train back to London (which was very delayed), Sasha showed me their favourite café Oliver’s Village Café in Belsize Park where we had a very tasty vegetarian breakfast, with mint tea and a big old slice of vegan chocolate cake. We then popped into Camden for a quick mooch before it was time for them to head to the airport. I returned home, exhausted and happy.

The Spooky Review – Cherym and Brand New Friend at Paper Dress Vintage, Situ Live launch event, London Bridge Experience and Drag Brunch at Dalston Superstore

Oh my goodness, what a month! It is great to be out and about, but I’m pretty sure if I didn’t keep this blog I would never remember where I’ve been or what I’ve done. One of my friends even asked me what I’d been up to, my brain went blank and I had to say ‘Ummm check my blog..’.

Another person with a rammed calendar is Tamsyn, who I haven’t seen since we went to Malta together two months ago. To catch up, I suggested we went to Paper Dress Vintage and checked out some bands. We grabbed some dinner and drinks at Oslo before heading over to see the double headliners Brand New Friend and Cherym, fresh off the tourbus from Northern Ireland.

First up were Brand New Friend, who have supported the likes of Ash, Snow Patrol and Lewis Capaldi. The band live up to their name; comprising of three siblings and two friends, their pleasantly natural stage banter and warm demeanour permeates the venue. Enthusiastically catchy pop punk is an optimistic change of pace after the pandemic and it is well received by the audience.

Yet again, Cherym do what they say on the tin – there is certainly plenty of charm from the three piece of Derry Girls. Although their most obvious references are riotgrrl bands like Bikini Kill and L7, I whispered to Tamsyn ‘Daphne and Celeste have grown up – and they’re pissed off’ . 

The next evening, I got a sneak peek at Westfield Shepherd’s Bush’s new experiential shopping showroom, Situ Live. Credited as “a discovery playhouse where innovations to inspire your everyday come to life, and where we help you choose the best products for your lifestyle,” myself and Alix got the chance to check out new products which were brought to life with passionate demonstrations.

We were most impressed by the culinary demonstrations, that really helped us understand the usefulness of the featured kitchen products and how they would enhance our daily lives. Another highlight was when I tried a ridiculously comfortable office chair that I didn’t know I needed until I sat on it, Alix fell in love with a brightly coloured bike and we both took turns pretending to drive a Maserati. We concluded the evening getting utterly confused and trounced at an online game of Among Us – which I have only ever previously played on my phone, but this time, we got to be almost immediately killed on a massive, state of the art gaming computer. It’s clear that, while online shopping is great, nothing quite beats trying before you buy – thanks to Situ Live, I now have a much longer and more tech focussed Christmas wishlist for Santa.

When the weekend rolled around, it was time to return to the London Bridge Experience for some fully immersive theatrical spookums. The tour started with a gruesome journey through the history of London, such as titbits about William Wallace, Jack the Ripper and the curiously named ‘Head Snatcher. A highlight for me was seeing the nervously chattering teenagers being totally shot down by a sassy medieval bartender anachronistically breaking character to tell them to ‘STFU’. After that, we were escorted into the ‘maze’ section of the experience, which involved walking single file through a series of horrific sets, with actors portraying chainsaw wielding psychopaths, clown psychopaths, pig face mask psychopaths etc (I don’t think these were quite as historically accurate). Obviously it was all completely ridiculous and I wasn’t scared at all, but I didn’t release my vicegrip on Ricardo’s hand for the duration… just in case. Afterwards we went to Flat Iron Square for some refreshments, on our way passing celebrity knitter Tom Daley, who was in the process of being mobbed by adoring fans. I was very tempted to take a crochet square out of my handbag (I always carry my crochet with me… just in case) and lob it at him.

We rounded the weekend off with a lovely Drag Brunch with Alix at Dalston Superstore. The entire menu is vegan, and yet, amazingly Ricardo calmly relinquished his carnivorous desires and tucked into a plant-based Full Brazilian breakfast with us. While Alix and I glugged on Bloody Maries, the delightful host Miss Craig circulated. Every table was given post-its to write power ballad requests (we had some Dolly, White Snake, Meatloaf and not one but two Cyndi Laupers), and Miss Craig intermittently lipsynced and chatted to brunchers, making several super speedy outfit changes. Following a brief chat abour Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion, we were delighted when she shouted ‘and this is for the table at the back’ and played Time After Time from the climactic dance. We all had a lot of fun and will definitely be returning soon.

Headphones vs inflatable microphones – Marshall Motif ANC launch and Basement Orchestra’s Disney Sing-along

It is fair to say that I am one of Ray Bradbury’s Autumn People – my event calendar explodes as soon as October comes around. However, September finished on a high with an invite to the launch of Marshall’s new earphones at Little Yellow Door.

As an aging rock chick, I have a natural affinity for the timeless cool of the legendary Marshall brand – and drinks in one of Portobello’s most stylish underground bars always sounds like a great way to spend an evening. With my musical genius friend Alix (more on her amazing talent later), we found a cozy corner to catch up and admire the psychedelic décor.

I have to admit, I’ve never before ‘got on’ with wireless headphones – I have the memory of a goldfish for charging devices, so they always seem to have lost their power midway through an important journey. However, since upgrading to an iPhone 12 recently, I have the dilemma of headphone plug sockets limiting my choices. Enter Motif ANC. With 20 total hours of wireless playtime and active noise cancellation, they really do live up to their promise of letting me ‘carry the big stage in (my) pocket’. The little case they come in is a) very aesthetic and practical to carry and b) has a build-in LED that lets you know when they are running low on charge.

Another of my headphone hang-ups is perpetually broken/tangled wires from banging about in the bottom of my handbag; when you pop these neat little guys back in their case, their sealed fit design ensures they slot into place magnetically with a satisfying little ‘plop’ noise. I haven’t even mentioned yet how great the sound is – it’s bloody great. There is even a dedicated EQ app to ensure your sound settings are just how you like them. Honestly, until these guys came along, I didn’t realise how much a good pair of headphones could benefit my life – I strongly recommend them for music fans on the go. Grab yourself a pair here.

The first week of Halloween treats was meant to continue on Saturday with an immersive experience which unfortunately had to be postponed – however, I did manage to pop into Soho for some garlic shots at (you guessed it) Garlic & Shots, followed by howling along to some show tunes around a piano in Lola’s basement bar of the Hippodrome. I even managed to persuade the fabulous live pianist at Overtures London to play some songs from Rocky Horror!

On Sunday night, to round off the weekend, I got the opportunity to see two of my university housemates (the aforementioned Alix and the fabulous Claire) perform for the first time with their orchestra at Clapham Grand’s Disney Sing-a-Long night. Unfortunately, I recently hurt my foot dancing at a gig, which has rendered most of my impractical shoe collection excruciating. I therefore opted to subtly Disney-bound as Jack Skellington in long flares to cover my practical trainers. It also gave me an opportunity to crack out my custom Mickey Ears with my name sewn on the back!

It was great to be back at Clapham Grand. I have to admit I was impressed by the turnout for Basement Orchestra’s recital – the queue went around the block! We were presented with a pink inflatable microphone as we entered the venue, which filled Ricardo with confusion and fear. However, when the songs started playing, he got well and truly involved with the rest of the mouseketeers in the audience, howling atonally along to classic showtunes from The Lion King, Sleeping Beauty and Little Mermaid.

A very charismatic and talented lady led the raucous crowd for the singalongs, and in between we were treated to orchestral performances of famous pieces from Disney’s 1940s coup, Fantasia. While the show was promoted to the plebs (akame) as a singalong, I definitely think it served for some as a gateway drug to more serious classical recitals. The atmosphere of the show was joyous and I was delighted to run into some friends in the audience.

The show ended with confetti and giant balloons falling from the ceiling – something which the orchestra weren’t informed off and seemed to be very offputting as they tried to swashbuckle oversized balloons with their instruments while performing the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean. As a bit of a Disney geek, my only complaint would be that the sing-along section felt quite short and some movies were disproportionately represented while other fan favourites were emitted. They didn’t LET IT GO so I won’t.

That said, I felt hugely proud to see what my friends have been working so hard on and I would defy anyone in the audience not to leave with a massive cartoony grin. For forthcoming opportunities to see this fabulous 50-piece orchestra play live, check out their website here.

WWE Live – and back in the UK

It’s hard to believe that, despite being an avid WWE fan for over 20 years and committing himself to a career as a wrestler (believe me, it’s a lot more physically and mentally taxing than it sounds), Ricardo had never been to a live WWE show.

I had tickets for the ill-fated Wrestlemania of 2020 in Tampa (and still need to rebook my postponed plane tickets somehow), plus have seen the WWE superstars strut their stuff at the O2 on a few occasions. To mark a quarter century of Ricardo’s existence, I took him to finally see his heroes in the flesh.

It still feels mildy surreal to go to a venue as large as the O2 after what seems like a lifetime of solitary confinement. The process to get into the arena is reassuringly lengthy, and it is odd to think that, only recently, live audiences were replaced by dystopian titan trons of viewers on their home sofas.

The wrestlers seem glad to be back travelling and presenting for a crowd – for some of the UK performers on the show, the London Live event has probably given them an opportunity to visit relatives, as this is the first oversees show since the pandemic.

The family orientated show opened with Alpha Academy (Otis and Chad Gable) vs Angelo Dawkins and Kenneth Crawford aka The Street Profits. It was a fun action-packed opening match, but I did much prefer Otis’s face angle with Mandy Rose to this new heel team up.

The second match was a standout for me, starting as a tag between legendary luchador Rey Mysterio with his son vs Robert Roode and my long time favourite Dolph Ziggler. It was a pantomime of epic proportions with lots of high flying lucha action, but Seth Rollins and Fin Balor disrupting the contest to make it a six-man tag ruined the flow for me. I do think Dolph Ziggler (who has been with the company for over a decade) deserves more attention that he is currently getting, as, in my opinion, he is the whole charismatic wrestling package. The third match saw Drew McIntire take on Jinder Mahal, but I felt it was lacking urgency. However, Scottish McIntrye did tease a UK pay per view which would be very exciting.

After the break, everyman Kevin Owens sparred with Happy Corbin in a kicky punchy match that fell flat for me. Corbin’s opening promo (where he said how shit the UK was compared to Vegas – duh, we know) didn’t really land, but Owens did handle a scrawny blonde crowd member jumping the barrier calmly by referencing previous beef with Logan Paul.

The penultimate match between Shinsuke Nakamura and Apollo Crews was somewhat overshadowed by Rick Boogs’ guitar intro but the show ended on a high with Bianca Belair challenging Becky Lynch for her title belt.

When the women came out, the crowd started to disperse demonstrating the sad lack of respect shown to females in wrestling. However, this was a far cry from the ‘piss break’ Diva matches of old. Although we know the belt is unlikely to change hands in an untelevised match, this was the most convincing, legitimate fight of the show from two charismatic superstars. A great ending to a great night.

Absinthe and Succubi – Cocktail booklaunch and Demob Happy

Inspired by last week’s trip to the Van Gogh Live exhibition, I took a leaf out of the great artist’s cocktail book, and decided my next trip should be courtesy of the little green fairy.

Absinthe is a bit like Marmite – you love it or you hate it, right? (Other than that, it’s really nothing like Marmite) I’ve always liked aniseed flavours, since my nana gave me sweeties as a child, and I very much enjoy the almost medical procedure of pipetting drips through a lump of sugar from a lovely big ornamental silver tap thingy. It’s hard to believe Absinthe was only allowed back in Europe in 1997 (and the US a decade later), with the levels of hallucinogenic neurotoxin  thuyone strictly controlled, making it much less likely anyone will be lobbing off their own ear under the influence these days.

I love attending events at Viktor Wynd’s Last Tuesday Society so when I saw they were holding the cocktail book launch party for Spirits of the Otherworld: A Grimoire of Occult Cocktails and Drinking Rituals I snapped up tickets. On entry, we were given a copy of the book and some cocktail tokens and proceeded to the back of the museum to catch up. The book, written by two of the directors of the Last Tuesday Society, features over 50 recipes for ‘spiritous offerings’ that appeared in mystical rituals throughout history and across the globe. Aside from a complimentary Devil’s Botany Absinthe and soda (I hate soda, it makes everything taste like pepto-bismol), we also received a drink from the special menu, featuring recipes from the book; I picked a Black Sabbath, made with spiced rum, absinthe and bitters. Inspired by a toxic potion from the fifteenth century designed to help witches fly high (metaphorically if not physically), I much preferred the absinthe in this bittersweet brew.

After our drinks, we popped down the spiral staircase to the basement museum (as is customary) to investigate any new curiosities. However many times I visit, I still always find something I haven’t seen before – this time, I enjoyed a selection of festivally decorated taxidermy, including a rather lovely squirrel.

The following day, I had gathered a gang for the first big-ish gig since the world reopened. I first was impressed by Demob Happy supporting Band of Skulls in Toronto in 2019 and they have been Spotify regulars for me since. I was interested to see how a headline tour in their home country would compare.

The gig was held at the Scala in Kings Cross, which is a favourite venue of mine – as well as seeing several great bands there over the years, I have been for a Cat festival, a MySpace party for the regular Scene kid FaceDown clubnight and (back when magazines were a thing) the Bizarre Ball.

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Bizarre Ball
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Scala Rawring 20s party

It was a really strange thing, being back among sweaty music fans – mildly scary but not unpleasant. Although I have never been a moshpit attendee (especially not since injuring my tootsies recently), there was something magical about watching all the pent up energy being released as flesh slammed against flesh in time to punchy three-piece rock.

I was initially drawn to the band for their retro 70s fuzzy rock style, and their immediately memorable hooks, prominent on singles like Less is More and Succubus. I have to admit, as a big fan of men with long hair, their visual as well as their audio aesthetic is very pleasing. Although the energy throughout the gig remained strong, some songs felt a little like poor imitations on the theme with little variation. Having showcased some new material from a forthcoming album, they ended on a choir-enhanced high with crowd pleaser Be Your Man.

Sunflowers and powerbombs – Van Gogh Alive and Elite Wrestling Entertainment

I guess that Van Gogh virtual exhibitions are like buses – you can wait and wait and then two come along at once.

And so the dilemma – which show (featuring none of the titular artist’s actual, physical work) is superior? Well, as I have only been to one, I can’t provide a definitive answer. But I can tell you what I thought about Van Gogh Alive, held in Kensington Gardens opposite the Royal Albert Hall.

My friend Anya, who booked our tickets, is far more cultured than I am and she said this exhibit had better reviews from her other cultured friends. After entering, we were greeted by a range of informational pull up banners on Van Gogh’s most popular pieces and a potted history of his descent into unappreciated madness.

As I say, I’m a pleb and I didn’t realise that his mental state deteriorated after being shunned by a lady he fancied – not only that, he sent his cut off ear to her. While the family of the object of his desires don’t like to be identified, as inaccurate retellings described her as a sex worker, they did hang on to the ear he lobbed off. Imagine that. This guy wasn’t even famous at the time he sent the ear but, instead of flushing it down the loo, she kept hold of it and passed it down through the generations. If someone sends me a body part in the post, that shit is going straight in the bin. Sorry, mate – I don’t care how amazing you think your art is, that shit is whack.

Anyway, I digress. After the pull up banners, there was a ‘selfie factory’ style photo opportunity where attendees can pretend that they are part of some of his more famous works. We obviously obliged.

The main bulk of the exhibit is a large indoor space with massive screens onto which zoomed-in pieces float in time to a selection of Classic FM’s greatest hits, along with snippets of his writings deemed appropriate to the works currently on display. There are a few chairs but most people sit on the floor, spread out, and watch the 40 minute presentation.

Here are some of my main takeaway thoughts:

  1. His style fluctuated greatly throughout his life, which was interesting to see as the chronological exhibition unfolded
  2. I really like his flower bouquets
  3. Small children really can’t sit still for a 40 minute light show in a darkened room
  4. Van Gogh was a terrible narcissist – aside from aforementioned jilted depression, he painted dozens upon dozens of self portraits (which makes taking a selfie seem pretty mundane)
  5. Some of the musical choices didn’t line up for me – Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre (about skeletons climbing out of their graves to lead the dance of death) played over restful rolling landscapes, while The Aquarium from Carnival of the Animals synced to Starry Night – while it does feature water, I think we can agree, the titular sky takes centre stage
  6. I would really like a cup of tea while watching the show

After we had watched until the end credits, the exiting crowds were herded through a sunflower room photo op (we obliged… obviously) and into the gift shop.

We popped outside for a peppermint tea and a slice of delicious carrot cake to enjoy the last of the day’s sun while catching up on the last year of our lives (time flies when you can’t interact with humans).

I then had to run off to meet my neighbour Shixu for her first ever wrestling show, at the Bedford in Balham. Elite Wrestling Entertainment is certainly one of the top wrestling promotions in London. The monthly show held at the luxurious South London venue features a wide range of industry talent (although there is a gap for female talent to get involved).

The show started with a promo by posh boy William Hudson Alexander Moore calling for a new challenger. Second up saw Fabio Romano take on fan favourite Ricardo Borg. Ricardo is handsome, charismatic, talented and also my boyfriend. Some might think I am biased when I say that he gets some of the biggest cheers, but some people are idiots. Ricardo has been an EWE mainstay since the show’s inception and has evolved with the format. His run has seen him vie for the Light Heavyweight Title but his streak got cut short by a broken hand, swiftly followed by the world shutting down, taking live shows with it.

It is really nice to be back in the Bedford and screaming our lungs out for our favourites; there is a very friendly atmosphere (mostly – I almost ended up in the ring myself after shouting back at a rude, drunk heckler). Another highlight of this month’s show was Alexander Roth and his manager Mr Big taking on and besting sneaky heel Theodore Powers, only to have the slippery snake steal the belt at the end anyway (and I saw him running away from the venue into the moonlight after show, waving it and cackling – no lie). The climactic ‘street fight’ saw bad guy Bullit steal the victory by powerbombing What Culture’s Simon Miller through a table.

EWE continues at the Bedford on 26th Sept – get your ticket here.

Raising spirits and chasing lions – “2:22: A Ghost Story” and Tusk Lion Trail

The world is back up and running so I guess this blog is too. What better way to return to society than with a play about people stuck in a room, getting drunk and arguing about ghosts.

2:22 is a supernatural comedy thriller by Danny Robbins (most famous for his podcast The Battersea Poltergeist) and has been drawing a lot of critical attention as it is Lily Allen’s West End debut. A drawing room play focusing on the alleged haunting of Jenny (Lily Allen) and husband Sam’s (West End vet Hadley Fraser) baby, university friend Lauren (Julia Chan) and her new chavvy boyfriend Ben (the aptly cast Eastenders alumnus Jake Wood) join the party to dispute their varying experiences and beliefs around the afterlife.

I don’t want to talk too much about the plot, as it is rather M Night Shyamalan-esque, but I do want to boast that I ‘got’ it about twenty minutes before the climax and immediately appreciated the subtle easter eggs scattered through the script. I would like to see it again, knowing the outcome, and see how that alters the context of the characters’ dialogue and interactions.

I thought Lily Allen gave a damn good performance, and Jake Wood was hilarious throughout. The two loveys of the cast diligently chewed the haunted scenery; I found Hadley Fraser’s pompous know-it-all Sam loathsomely realistic.

The set itself, expertly designed by Anna Fleischle, was a character in itself; I couldn’t take my eyes off the double patio doors at the back of the stage in case I missed some spooky goings on. Sudden scene changes, marked by a blackout and amplified scream, maintained tension, but, I think, after a year and half of pandemic, having watched every shitty horror on Netflix and had all my deepest societal anxieties affirmed, I am now immune to jump scares. However, it was fun to see the audience chatter nervously after each sudden scene break.

Held at the Noël Coward theatre, it was a shock to the neurotic system to realise that almost every seat in the relatively compacted auditorium was taken. I was also taken aback that, at the entrance, I was asked if I was double jabbed but no further checks were made.

After the show, Ria and I went on a trip to Picadilly Circus to see some of Tusk Org’s Lion Trail. I always enjoy these life-sized animal art trails but this one stood out for me as it features a lion by one of my longtime favourite humans, Noel Fielding. Punnily named A Hard Mane is Gonna Fall, I don’t think it is just bias to say that this lion stands out from the pride as a true work of art. The colours and paint style are so distinctive, not to mention the additional eyes. It also features a hidden *ehem* crown jewel for those pervy enough to look for it…

The trail can be found around London until the end of September so make sure to have a gander.

Milk and Curry – Grand Trunk Road followed by Burlesque at the King’s Head

At the beginning of the year, I met some brilliant people and was asked to join London’s Rocky Horror Picture Show shadow cast. One particular shining light has been Ina, who plays Magenta – she’s one of those people who not only is kind, sweet, funny and caring, but also will not hesitate to tell you if you are behaving out of line. (That’s her – on the left, obviously)

Several months ago, she invited me to Milk, a cabaret night at the Kings Head member’s club on Kingsland Road. Concealed to the untrained eye, the dilapidated exterior hides a decadent monthly party with a mischievously carefree vibe that I believe is unmatched in London.

The shows themselves are always relaxed and friendly, whilst jam packed with the top talent of London’s burlesque and cabaret game. Ina’s birthday synced with the latest event, so myself and Ricardo got dolled up in sparkles and fur and headed out into the night.

On route, we decided to make a cheeky pitstop at Grand Trunk Road. A favourite of mine since my initial visit when it opened, the Michelin-starred eaterie hooked us up with a delicious mix from its wide menu. I opted for the Bengali Fish, a sea bass fillet in kasundi mustard, served with tomato and curry leaf sauce and crispy spinach, but I particularly recommend the Truffle Naan, which perfectly complimented Ricardo’s Chingri Malai Curry, consisting of tiger prawns in a milky sauce of turmeric and ginger.

We hopped in a Kapten and arrived fashionably early, which allowed us time to explore the other rooms of the venue, most of which were engaged with private parties who were in good enough spirits to invite us into their fold. I love the upstairs, which features one room with walls entirely covered in taxidermized butterflies, and another packed full of more large stuffed cats than your average museum of natural history.

At the bar, I opted for my regular choice of a Hurricane, complete with a blue flaming passion fruit decoration. Ricardo’s first choice was slightly disappointing, so he soon joined me on the Hurricanes. As the acts started to filter down to the basement, Ina arrived with work mates in tow, and we moved downstairs, where we had the pleasant surprise of running into my friend Emily (a very talented model who recently relocated to London).

Milky Mama hosts Verity and Vicky, resplendent in their fetish-wear finery, always carry the night with their charisma and interaction, making the audience feel welcomed and involved, while still reverent of the beautiful performers. The evening kicked off with a sultry performance by an old friend and favourite of mine, the divine Sugar Rush, who always has the crowd absolutely captivated. Another Milk regular, Onyx Fatale, impressed Ricardo (who trained as a dancer) with her moves and stage presence. A new fav of mine was Purrsia Kitt, whose act featured a cat-lady and her mistress, with eye contact and musical choices that challenged expectations, making the performance an intriguing watch.

In between acts, stage kittens (including Ina’s partner Paris) took to the stage to dance, inviting audience members to join them. Obviously, it didn’t take long for Ricardo to get topless and start shaking his booty for the gathered crowd, to rapturous applause. For Ina’s birthday, I decided to get our group a round of Jägermeister shots – my mental maths failed me and I found myself a cool ton down.

We made a sly escape before the morning truly dawned (we had to be up bright and early to get to a Birthday party), but still a wonderful night was had by all and the next Milk event has been pencilled in. If you are a fan of the decadent and debauched, Milk is definitely the night for you. x

Red Palace – masking our curiosity in Waterloo Vaults

Traditionally, Wednesday afternoon is our movie night, but this week, Ria managed to snag us tickets for London’s hottest experiential theatre show, so the Addams Family reboot will just have to wait. For now.

I knew very little about the event aside from that I was required to wear a mask, so I popped onto Amazon with Ria to pick out something fabulous. As a crazy cat lady, my leopard and lace number was a no brainer, while Ria went for a bejewelled black swan.

Before heading to the show, we popped to Natural Kitchen in Waterloo station, as I noticed it had a good vegan selection. Ria chose a vegan curry and mocktail, while I went for a Cuba Libre and tuna salad. The food was delicious if slightly pricey and the venue was suprisingly rammed considering it was 6pm on a Wednesday at a restaurant in a train station. I would definitely like to return and investigate other options on the menu in the future.

We then got slightly lost trying to find the venue, which seems to be a recurring theme when I try to use Google Maps in the immediate vicinity of Waterloo station. On arrival, we were ushered down a dark passage into a ballroom to a bar serving custom cocktails. It felt rude not to try a Cat’s Whiskers, comprising of cut spice rum, elderflower syrup, oat cream and… catnip. Yes, there was catnip floating on the top.

The show started with masked and cloaked dancers performing down the central aisle of the ballroom (flash photography was not allowed so excuse the grainy nature of pictures from here on out!). The venue was busy and, while the early birds were sitting, some of us later-comers had to stand. I was rather rudely told to move by a sitter (despite there being nowhere less offensive for me to move to, and she, as far as I could see, had a perfectly functioning set of legs with which to stand) but within minutes the actors instructed us all to stand anyway, where a obnoxious prince told us that, in our masks, we could be whoever we wanted to be, and to mingle with the folks we hadn’t yet met. I decided, for the night I was going by Mistress Kitty (yes, not the most imaginative, but I had to think of the spot… in retrospect, perhaps Princess Fluffybuns or Lady Killmowski might have been more becoming).

From the ballroom, we then chose an actor to follow and ended up in the seedy Gingerbread House club, ran by Hansel and featuring his sister Gretel’s burlesque – however, it soon became clear that the actor portraying both twins was in fact schizophrenic due to the loss of their sibling at the hands of the aforementioned Prince. A wolf entered the club and told us to follow them to the woods, where we were introduced to a po-faced young lady in a red hood, who told how, in an attempt to avoid a curse reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death, the Prince had killed every woman in the forest, for which she was now seeking revenge. We were asked where our allegiances lay, and the entire group sided with the red-cloaked renegade.

As we left the forest, we made the choice to visit a lady called Snow’s delightfully pink birthday party, where she dreamed of snaring the Prince’s love – despite never having met him. She taught us a dance routing which involved a unicorn puppet (that was me sold) and, while she was clearly a golddigger, she also seemed to have a heart of gold to match. After she had told her story, we went to see the Seer Babayaga who had originally made the prophecy of the Red Death curse, where we summoned ghosts together to get a hint as to how the evening would climax.

The bell tolled, and we returned to the main hall where the Prince met his story’s end (I won’t spoil whether the prophecy played out). The ending was slightly abrupt in my opinion, and we were also aware we hadn’t had time to follow the palace cat into the dungeons or visit a carnivorous mermaid – which is a shame because we love cats and mermaids and we might have prioritised our time differently if we had realised how limited it was. All in all, the sets were lush and the stories were engaging, with stand out performances by Babayaga and Snow. Obviously I don’t wish to presume the performers’ gender, but it was also good to see such a charismatic and predominantly female cast. The show runs until early January so I might be tempted to return to fill in my mermaid-shaped gaps! x