Clown Tears, Tassels and the Uncaring Club Crowd

2017 February 13
by ghostnote101


Cirque at The Deaf Institute was advertised as a ‘burlesque circus spectacular’. In my mind, this conjures up images of mood-lit, sultry dancing girls, pulling off gloves with their teeth to the sounds of jazz, accompanied by fire-eaters, midgets and a flying monkey trapeze. Then again, to me, most things do; but this was the dream I was sold and that’s what I went along wanting.

Down in the basement, at least fifty people cram into a pitch-dark room the size of a large kitchen. Stomping broken glass into the floor, this pack of raving animals dance wildly, as punchy electronica, with chemical assistance, pounds through veins and spinal columns. This is good. This is underground clubbing.

Step upstairs and it’s a different story. The ground floor bar feels hollow, a soulless limbo between the dangerous basement and the expected pleasures of the top floor. Another experience on the stairs: this now feels like a frat house party. A dark wooden banister is the only thing visible, leading up through the winding staircase of people, to the top floor music hall. Here, home stereo speakers are stacked high behind the low-key bar; twisted animal print wallpaper lines every wall. If it were not for the unusual theatre seating and stage, you’d be forgiven for thinking that someone lived here and was throwing one hell of a birthday knees-up

Every space packed to the hilt, every person that certain breed of beautiful: a sneering, pouting, living, breathing showcase of the ripped-off Jack Wills catalogue. The lads are drunk and leering, the girls are self-obsessed and cold. Up high in the steeply banked seating, swathes of imitation gossip-girl starlets writhe to the blues, soul and rock ‘n’ roll that it’s now retro cool to like; gurning and posing their kookiest poses for camera-phone giggles and Facebook appeal. 

I love the venue, I love the music, I love the concept, but these people… They represent everything I hate about clubbing: the sweaty, claustrophobic, drunken undulating of too many people, too cramped to realise the delusion of regarding this as fun.

Another problem is that, whatever else this night may be, a burlesque circus it is not; and whatever other token gestures may occur, two clowned-up stilt-walkers alone will never a burlesque circus make. Until midnight, these two performers, dressed in the cheapest comedy clown suits money can rent, are the only hint that this is anything other than a regular club night. Burlesque. Circus. Do these words not demand something a little more…sexy?


If I lived in the film that I think I do, the announcement of the midnight show would have been rewritten to reflect the spirit in which it was received. Imagine the sound of a needle being pulled off a record as somebody shouts “right, that’s enough dancing. You’ve got a show to watch.” Vvvvrrrp! Silence. A pretty girl is pushed onto the stage, covered in balloons. She tries so hard. The girl dances to sleazy stripper music, popping the balloons to reveal her underwear. Gasp! She actually puts on a great show, but you’d never guess that from the crowd. Most are now talking, not even watching the parade of cheeky little dance acts. Perhaps the sight of a pretty lady is of no interest to these beer-swilling swine and preening bitches.

Ultimately, there are too many DJ intervals to allow the showcase to hang together smoothly, but maybe that’s what these people really want. They are definitely a drunken-night-out, clubbing crowd, and it could be reasonably argued that they came for the cramped, jiggling action of the dance floor as much as the burlesque jiggling action on the stage. They seem frustrated at the interruption. Only the seven-piece blues band seem to inspire much enthusiasm, and that’s only because they allow the crowd to dance. Almost incidental at this stage of the review, but the blues band are fantastic: tight as hell and as bluesy-rock as it comes. But even then, the exciting, angle-grinding, spark-shooting accompaniment artists are only there for a few songs. Is someone rationing the spectacular here?

The sad thing is that if this night didn’t work, which it didn’t, it wasn’t any of the organisers’ fault. Every element was there to provide a great experience; it was just the people who went along that let it down. For the performers, this was the toughest of tough gigs: the crowd just didn’t want them. I don’t even think there’s a word for what they did want. ‘Party’ implies that somebody’s having fun; ‘dancing’ suggests that they’d have enough room to do that. This is something that involves cramming yourself into what is essentially a herd, shouting to each other over the music, and drinking overpriced lager until you’re ‘tipsy’ enough to ignore the fact it all resembles hell. But hey, as long as the Facebook pictures are suitably wacky, and for wacky read ‘someone dancing,’ then you obviously must have had a good time. I don’t get it. I just don’t get it, and I never will.

Points to the Deaf Institute for trying, but maybe in future just give the drunken clubbers what they want. You’ve already proved yourselves as a live music venue and it’s that crowd to whom this would have appealed. Next time, and do try more things like this, make it an all-night stage show with bands. At least then, the performers would get the audience they deserve.

Words by Alexander Walsh

Photos by Mat Johns


One Response leave one →
  1. 2017 March 11

    I wanted to comment and thank the author, good stuff

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