Little Death Club is an utterly remarkable show. It can be funny, poignant and awe inspiring without missing a beat.
When you first enter the tent, the show’s host Bernie Dieter is getting very friendly with the audience as she prances gracefully among the crowd in her feathery black leotard. It sets the scene for what Dieter and her co stars are trying to do: craft an intimate show, blissfully ignorant of boundaries and featuring as much decadent entertainment in the space of an hour as possible. Not only do they succeed, but Little Death Club is nothing short of a marvel.
This single hour feels like the entire Edinburgh Fringe crammed into one show. The beautifully expressive Dieter kicks off proceedings with some side-splitting and passionately performed musical numbers, and continues to do so throughout the show – not afraid to make use of interesting props and bashful onlookers. She has a motley crew of entertainers to help her out as well, including the sheer class act Myra Dubois, and the jaw-dropping, graceful acrobatics of Oliver Smith-Wellnitz. The acts are all trying to be something different, be it sexy or funny or shocking, but they are all unique and fantastic to watch. Dieter is not kidding when she says that she has found some of the best performers around.
The aesthetic of the show is impeccable. Little Death Club takes place in a massive tent but it feels as if you are sitting in a cosy underground cabaret club in Berlin. The lighting moves from luscious red, to piercing white in a heartbeat, and the money shots come when the lights cast Dieter’s silhouette out to the audience. It is utterly stunning. The closeness to the action is maintained by all the acts who, in their own distinctive ways, get up close and personal with their cheering onlookers. All this happens to an array of live and pre-recorded music, swapping from rock-infused jazz to underground synth and everything in between. The amazing variety creates a feast for your eyes and ears as there is something for everyone.
Dieter and co. are unapologetic throughout, but not in a wagging finger kind of way. They simply celebrate who they are and express themselves on stage. In Dieter’s case, this can involve singing to the heavens about her secret sexual fantasies (often involving a red-faced audience member), or retorting to the strange online advances from strangers she has had to put up with. Underlying all the acts are positive messages about identity, empowerment and sharing the love. While this message is always present, it is never front and centre, lest Little Death Club risk detracting from the antics. For example, the amazing, graceful trapeze work of Smith-Wellnitz is followed immediately by stunt burlesque star Kitty Bang Bang lighting things on fire and dancing to the tune of hard rock. Despite such sudden changes in mood, the show never jars. It is like you are watching five or six different shows at once.
This is the variety show to end all variety shows. Little Death Club revels in its decadence, like that triple-layered chocolate cake that you know you shouldn’t eat but you gorge on anyway against your better judgement, and emerge from the other side an enriched human being. This unashamed celebration of the misfit and deviant in us all keeps on surprising, enthralling and enticing the audience. Genuinely moving musical numbers, comedy and cabaret galore all combine to package the spirit of the Edinburgh Fringe into one rollicking and magnificent hour of festivities.
Little Death Club
Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows – The Beauty (Venue 360)
Until 25 August
Photo Credit: Ayesha Hussain