Alessandro Tomé goes to a trendy cabaret gig and finds the only thing more revolting than the show itself is the agglomeration of freaks watching it
WHAT COULD BE wrong with a show that is in part a take on Alice in Wonderland? It is a children’s story after all, full of vivid colours and characters. Even when giving free rein to macabre master Tim Burton, it’s still entertaining, if now with an edge, which perhaps gets a little closer to the author’s original state of mind: a psychedelic, feature-length LSD ride without the side effects — hopefully.
So when my friend Mowgli asked Angel Wife and me to join him and his nubile new girlfriend for a night out at London’s hottest spot, called The Box, to party and watch a show that included said take on Alice, we didn’t think twice in following him into his jungle, for it all sounded fairly Disney-like and ‘familiar’. As it turns out, comparisons with a jungle are not fair on either the jungle or its dwellers, for from beautiful birds to lithe predators, slithering reptiles to killer arachnids, they all have a beautiful presence and purpose in the balance of things. Not here, not in this Box.
A gentle start of great music, pretty friends of nubile girlfriend and a general sense of fun prevailed through to the first act, which came and went with innocent tricks and illusions, with the more louche entertainment being provided by cat-fighting chavs off their trolleys slurping decadently expensive vodka at the next table.
As the night progressed, this was rapidly replaced by an ever darkening mood. No more friendly jungle with Mowgli. This was more becoming of an army of expensively dressed ghouls given freedom to roam. Beats increased, strobes quickened, all building to a frenzy straight out of some voodoo ceremony, bodies gyrating, arms flailing and off-tune chanting. The second act opened to a New York tramp defecating (or realistically pretending to) and I will leave you to imagine the rest of that particular scene as I became more fascinated with the show put on by the crowd.
On stage they played ‘pretend’, or mostly pretend, I hope. After the Poo-King, when Alice did finally come on she was fed an array of pretend drugs by weird-looking human and mechanical rabbits, flame-eating mad hatters and the Queen of Hearts, who was definitely not repressed when it came to licking Alice into shape. But the crowd was playing for real.
It was fascinating to see where we are as a society, and what we seem to need to stimulate our numbed senses. And it wasn’t an odd grouping of society’s outcasts feeding their non-conforming minds and souls. That may have been the case in the early days of the show’s import from New York, where it also is a huge draw, and perhaps made it more real in a way — but only because it may have helped us feel this is ‘them’, not ‘us’. ‘They’ are the exception, ‘we’ are the rule. ‘We’ were able to do voyeurism from a safe distance, like going to the foam party at Privilege but not getting wet. ‘We’ could criticise and turn our noses up at it while being titillated at the thought of it all, but retain our innocence, our social order, our pretence of balance.
But the fact is that as a society we have undermined and destroyed much of the fabric that built it up over the past millennia and replaced it with general nihilism and obligatory acceptance of all things on the back of political correctness and human rights. We are numbing ourselves as a social grouping as if on a drug binge to the point of needing extremism in all things to be interested in anything. Not even the chavs who by now were urinating at the table next door managed to inspire any more than the odd shrug or even a giggle.
There is no room to pretend it’s a small, deviant minority, for this room was filled with mostly ‘us’, not ‘them’. Probably the only one missing was our great leader, William Cash, but I’m sure he’ll make it soon, if he isn’t a regular yet. Just like you will. And the rest will, too, private parties and all. Because we can’t stay away. Because this is where we are, just like many society constructions before us — Greece, Rome, Byzantium, to name a few.
We passed the apogee without realising and have slid into the overindulgence that is the early sign of decadence, the gout of society that usually ends in tears, if not blood and annihilation of the current construct. But we can always choose to change course along the way, leave the building, decide that ‘too much of anything is never enough’ is not such a good motto. We may decide we don’t want to stay for the third act, or even the private show later on. Time to move on.
However, as Angel Wife and I left, we realised this is no mean feat, at least at The Box, for getting out is harder than getting in. The power of this throng is difficult to row against and break through, so the chances are slim. And from what I was told of the third act, The Box’s show couldn’t be more honest about it all, so credit where it’s due. They are only holding up a mirror to us all and it makes for squirmish watching. Act I is fun and games and magic tricks, Act II is the beginning of the fairy tale going off the tracks, and Act III is the final, violent and bloody reckoning, like so many good plays.
Illustration by Jeremy Leasor
Aman After My Own Heart
There are some TV ads out there at the moment extolling the difference between ‘good’ and ‘great’ by using examples such as why we call it the Great Wall of China, not just the Good one; Great Barrier Reef rather than Good, and so on. I like the point, as too often we settle for good instead of going for great. I am not so sure we would have read Good Expectations or The Good Gatsby.
So, as I was flying back direct to Heathrow from a few days in Marrakech, enjoying the ‘Great’ on-board service from the BMI crew, in their ‘Great’ business-class seats after discovering their ‘Great’ lounge at Heathrow on the way down, it reminded me of the good old days (or should that be great?). I gathered my thoughts about why those days felt so ‘great’, rather than merely ‘good’.
Beyond the fact that we went for a friend’s Moroccan wedding, with all the fun and colour and noise of it, and that it happened to be our own 19th anniversary, Angel Wife and I both felt a sense of inner tranquillity beyond that. I realised that it was because we had stayed at a ‘great’ hotel rather than a ‘grand’ one. I know our beloved editor raved about the grand old lady of Marrakech that is La Mamounia and its massages but, post facelift and collagen lips, it’s still an old lady.
For me it doesn’t make a scratch on the experience of an Aman resort, in this case the Amanjena. I had forgotten what sense of ultimate luxury, unobtrusive pampering and relaxation is brought upon by a stay there. They have the innate ability to make you stop having to think of practical issues like cleaning your sunglasses and let you just focus on lying back.
Yes, the spa is marvellous and so is the food, and the private rooms, particularly the pool ones, are wonderful havens in themselves. But it is a way of letting you just be that sets them apart from anything else by a country mile, like the Yquem of hotels. Don’t wait for a ‘Good’ occasion, make it a ‘Great’ one — go to the Amanjena and nowhere else if headed for Marrakech.
And So To Med
If it feels like this edition of The Discriminator is turning into something of a ‘good tips’ one, you would be right. After all, summer is upon us, and this may help with choices. Everyone always asks me about Ibiza — what, where, when, why and how — and particularly how to have a great night out while avoiding the usual madness.
There is an answer called Aura, whose owner Charlie has made great efforts to turn it from an OK night spot to a great one. He has one of the best DJs I know, in Antz, and has added a proper outdoor restaurant with excellent El Bulli-inspired food to create a place you can enjoy spending time in while having a bit of a wild one, too, particularly on Fridays. I can already hear the sound of angry texts from the army of friends who want to keep it to themselves…