Monday 15 March 2010

Emilie Autumn at Islington Academy 12 March 2010

Emilie Autumn

Is this a gig? Or is it something else entirely- a trip down the rabbit hole, a Sunday stroll to see the inmates at Bedlam? Or simply the best pantomime in town?
This I do know. The only instruments played tonight are violin and harpsichord, other parts being pre-recorded on a thumping backing tape. You got a problem with that?
This is the weird and dauntingly strange world of U.S. artiste Emilie Autumn, ably assisted by her troupe of Bloody Crumpets, a dangerous, glamorous, voluptuous and probably incestuous brood of ne’er-do-wells who are as ambiguous in their sex as they purport to be in their morals.

Tonight’s show is beyond high camp. It’s a phantasmagorical concoction of Aubrey Beardsley, Pirates of the Caribbean, Noel Coward, Victorian music hall, Twenties burlesque and above all, the Alfred Tenniel version of Alice In Wonderland. Compared to the Tea Party thrown by Emilie and her crew, the recent Tim Burton version of the tale looks like a staid and grim documentary.

For the best part of two hours the crowd (lovingly referred to throughout as “Plague Rats”) are entertained by songs, sketches, striptease and stilt-walking. And some nifty violin and harpsichord, obviously.

Emilie is the focus of attention, her hair in bright red cascades, resplendent for much of the gig in camiknickers, rodent ears and tail. She strikes a balance between mistress of ceremonies and musical performer, knocking out crowd pleasers such as “Opheliac” and “The Art Of Suicide”, whilst also taking time to dabble in a lot of will-they-won’t-they faux lesbian schtick with her spectacularly proportioned sidekick Veronica Varlow.
The audience , who are almost uniformly bedecked in garb that would make Tim Burton stomp off home to Hampstead in defeat, are happy to play foil to this mayhem – joining in the choruses, throwing muffins and crumpets (all in good fun), vying to take part in a segment of the show called ‘The Rat Game’, where one lucky participant gets to come onstage and sing along with one of the songs.

I last saw this band (show?) about three years ago. In that time they have upped their game considerably, although there is now much more emphasis on performance rather than simply playing music.

At one point towards the end the whole ensemble perform a version of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ that even Freddie Mercury might have considered to be over the top. That this indulgence is by no means the highpoint of the evening goes some way to illustrating the maniacal insanity of this revue.

Gig? Probably. Entertainment? Definitely. Recommended? Absolutely!

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