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13 December 2007
Fowl play

Ben Walters: Time Out New York

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 mean.?

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.?


For a night at C?est Duckie
DO wear your finest duds and illegally smoke cigars.
DON?T 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.?

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