The lighting is low, the decor black-and-red glam, and the bubbly is
flowing nicely?even if it?s not quite as good as the label suggests.
There?s a small stage, but the action is taking place at the venue?s
eight tables. A performer is perched on one, limbs splayed, using her
feet to offer the guests chips; a salsa dish is precariously balanced
on her crotch (someone must have ordered the ?Natcho Snatcho?). At
another table, the Wicked Witch of the West is impersonating Robert De
Niro?in Spanish. Across the room, a party is enjoying its serving of
?Wet Rimming,? in which?well, let?s not spoil it for you.
This is C?est Duckie,
a smart, silly, cocktail of cabaret and concept piece?tits-and-teeth
showbiz with a deconstructive agenda. ?Performance art,? its producers
insist, ?is the new table dancing.? Taking its name from Duckie, the
renowned British queer club night and performance company, C?est Duckie
is a menu show with a difference. Each table is given a list of about
30 acts and 40 ?Duckie dollars? to purchase them with. Pony up five DD,
for instance, and you can ?Be Insulted.? ?Miss High Leg Kick Does Seven
Cocks? will set you back double that. The items are then served up by
the four cast members?Marisa Carnesky, Kazuko Hohki, Joshua Sofaer and
Miss High Leg Kick?plus guests from the New York scene.
?It?s about performance as commerce,? says Carnesky, whose sets have
included flaming magic tricks and being tattooed onstage. ?Even though
the audience barter with fake money, they treat it as real. It can get
confrontational?we have an ?Emotional Striptease? section, where we
offer to sell a real story from our lives. The audience can be very
C?est Duckie was created in 2002 as a fancy-pants
departure from the troupe?s usual cheap-and-cheerful Saturday nights at
the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in south London, a grungy pub and
queer-performance institution. Like the original Saturday shows, which
have been running since 1995, it is deliberately shabby around the
edges, and puts the audience?as well as the performers?on the spot.
The sensibility is queer, but Duckie has never been a ?gay?
enterprise, and the menu show is less about sexuality and more about
blurring the lines between business and art, performance and audience.
After picking up an Olivier Award and a special theater award from Time Out London
in 2003, the show scored two gongs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
before touring to Berlin, Sydney and Tokyo. Not bad for an event that
began 12 years ago as a way of sprucing up a grotty pub.
Back then, queer Londoners
without an interest in house music, Ecstasy or the gym weren?t exactly
well-catered to by the scene. Enter London drama graduate Simon
Casson?a.k.a. Simon Strange?the driving force of Duckie,
along with his stage collaborator, New Jersey expat Amy Lamé, who
became the show?s compere. They were joined by DJs Mark Wood and Mark
Johnston?who called themselves ?The Readers Wifes? [sic]?and ?door
whores? Father Cloth and Jay Cloth, who handle the box office, backup
deejaying and other artistic duties. All six remain at the core of Duckie today. ?It?s like a family,? Wood says. ?We argue, but it?s nothing serious.?
Besides the menu show, there will be a one-off Duckie NYC club night at Greenpoint?s Studio B on January 19 to mark the end of C?est Duckie?s
run. Lamé will host a showdown between three of London?s finest
performers and three New Yorkers, including nu-jazz comedy icon Dynasty
Handbag. Later, the Wifes take to the turntables with their mix of ?80s
electro, punk, reggae, and patron saints Morrissey and Bowie.
So, if Duckie is a quintessentially English show?even its name
is an old-fashioned, slightly camp and utterly English term of
endearment?will its sensibility translate to New York? Lamé thinks so.
?If there?s one thing New Yorkers love,? she notes, ?it?s getting
involved.? In fact, there are already links between Duckie
and NYC. Pastiche artist Taylor Mac will be a guest performer, and
Justin Bond, otherwise known as Kiki of Kiki & Herb, provided
vocals for the Readers Wifes? album, Gaslight. Says Bond, who compares Duckie
to legendary New York night Jackie 60: ?It?s smart, it?s funny, it?s
subversive, and it has the cutting edge of New York at its finest. That
twisted way of thinking is kind of universal.?
DO?S AND DON?TS
For a night at C?est Duckie
DO wear your finest duds and illegally smoke cigars.
touch the performers or mention the sex industry?this is art, remember.
(Though if you ply them with real cash as well as Duckie dollars,
you?ll likely get a bigger bang for your buck.)
For the Duckie club night
DO learn to love bears.
DON?T wear nice shoes (or anything you?re afraid of getting beer spilled on).
Some mockney phrases to help you get wiv ve pictchur:
?You?re ?avin? a larf, incha????I think you?re asking a little much for that.?
?Nuffin? like a good old knees-up, eh????You can?t beat a good party, can you??
?I could murder a wife-beater.???I?d love a pint of lager.?
?Bloody ?ell, freeze the bollocks off a brass monkey out there!? ? ?It?s very cold tonight.?