Bernie Dieter’s Little Death Club – Underbelly Southbank, Spiegeltent review: ‘What the world needs now is more Bernie Dieter’

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

This neat hour of Weimar-inspired ‘Kabarett’ offers a spectrum of sublime and silly acts composed by helmswoman Bernie Dieter to celebrate and showcase difference and weirdness.

Accompanied by a live band, the show opens with Bernie herself climbing into the audience, singing and coaxing by turns, she encourages a group of men to stroke each other and then carry her on to the stage. She’s both sexy and preposterous as she threatens to sit on the face of anyone who takes her fancy, but her humour never gets threatening – we are always laughing alongside her, invited to be part of her family of freaks for one night only.

Beau Sargent: bendy. Photo: Alistair Veryard Photography

The Spiegeltent is a fairly intimate setting; we’re all close to the central round thrust stage and the intimacy is increased by the performers coming out into the audience. The aerial work isn’t suspended high above our heads either, it only happens about a foot in the air, so we can see every judder and flex of the performers’ (often naked) bodies.

The world needs more people like Bernie. Unfortunately she’s one of a kind.

The show changes depending on where Bernie is performing, but the acts are always a mix of circus and cabaret with a modern twist. On this occasion, we are treated to gender-bending contortionism from aerialist gymnast Beau Sargent, whose act is beautiful in its precision and disturbing in its twistiness.

Beau Sergent: contortionist extraordinaire

There’s a mime, ‘Le Mime Tipi’, played by comedian Josh Glanc, who no longer wants to mime and discovers fresh childish joy from climbing inside an actual cardboard box, as opposed to an invisible one. Fancy Chance practices the rare and painful art of hair hanging, whereby she is suspended from a giant bun of hair, which she combines with majestic angel wings, as though she’s flying, then sheds them in favour of wearing nothing but her tattoos. Kitty Bang Bang, who I first saw over a decade ago, is now one of the darlings of the burlesque scene. Her act involves fire eating and fire… nipples.

Fancy Chance: Hair hanging. Photo: Alistair Veryard Photography

It’s all held together beautifully by Bernie Dieter’s quick wit and fabulous songs, which include ‘Lick My Pussy’ about a sexually impatient encounter and ‘Dick Pic’ in which she receives an unwelcome picture from a man and messages back the owner/ sender with an image of a naked mole rat. She then shows us the picture, blown up to 12 inches by six inches, and the two do look uncannily similar.

It’s exhilarating, exhuberant, silly and captivating and an absolute joy to behold.

“In a time when we are told that difference is something to be feared, ” says Bernie in her final speech, “We F**king celebrate it”.

The world needs more people like Bernie. Unfortunately she’s one of a kind.

Until 23 June. Tickets at underbellyfestival.com/whats-on/little-death-club

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