Frau Welt


Review by Corinna Tomrley

You can tell at once that Peter Clements has been honing this character over the past few years. Frau Welt is executed precisely, the performance is tight, the gestures and facial expressions exquisite. Frau may be a large character but there is depth and pathos here. We laugh but we feel more than mirth.

From the moment of her entrance we are captured in her spell. Frau Welt tales the life story of a diva of the theatre (or tee-ay-ter, as Frau says it). Years in the Berliner Ensemble as Mother Courage and Brecht’s mistress; ambitions of Broadway stardom by way of a glomming friendship with one Angela Lansbury… it is also a tale of lost love and secrets. We are captivated, we are won.

Everything about this production is perfection. The sparseness of the stage and props. The deliciously and flawlessly chosen music (including my favourite Judy Garland song, ever), the costume and the wigs. Even though what they have chosen to dress her in must be hotter than hell under those lights.

When Frau Welt makes her entrance in the second act we are faced with a stunning vision, strutting towards us through smoke and techno. Looking spookily like Alla Nazimova in Camille, dressed in silver lurex, this is an image I won’t forget. When I think back on the great theatre I’ve seen in my life, this will be what I remember.

Hackney Showroom was a project launched on a mere 20k, a dream that became a reality of a space for collaboration, development and opportunity for performers and artists and community. It is glorious. Frau Welt is their first in-house production of a full piece of theatre and what a debut. All involved should be rightly proud of this gem. The new Big Space is wonderful. Stark yet welcoming, a classic non-proscenium stage. I fell in love with it at first site. And it’s perfect for such a piece; intimate, comfortable. There’s not a bad seat in the house.

Hackney Showroom have supported and presented countless queer performances and workshops in its short life. This is the kind of space we desperately need and deserve. Be sure to support them by attending performances and other events. You can even pledge donations if you want to contribute even more to this valuable piece of London arts and community life.

Frau Welt runs until 21st October. So, plenty of time to catch it. You will be grateful that you did.

Image by Holly Revell

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Magnificent 7


Review by Corinna Tomrley

Hmmm. So, westerns have always been, or had the potential to be, pretty problematic. Or to put it another way, basic and/or offensive in their treatment of race, morality, women, oh I dunno, pretty much everything. Later ones did tend to address or even overturn some of this. Genres, after all, aren’t static. And I know I know we can look at the westerns from the beginnings of cinema to, what the 70s, even the 80s perhaps and say ‘they have to be viewed in their historical context’. But in 2016?

I am pretty baffled, actually, by what I’ve just watched. And also about the experience of watching it in a massive West End IMAX cinema with a bunch of predominantly critical people. I’m gonna make a sweeping assumption that lots of these people will (or should) be clued in that laughing at racist ‘jokes’ isn’t ok. There are quite a few aspects of The Magnificent Seven remake that are iffy and it totally obliterated any of the qualities that the film has underneath all of that.

Now, confession time: I’ve not seen the original (or Seven Samurai). Although, to be honest, I kind of want to now despite westerns being one of the genres that does little for me. But despite not being a fan, I’ve seen westerns, believe me. I grew up having to sit through the spaghetti ones again and again and again. Watched some in film school. And then had a boyfriend who liked the Leone ones and I can appreciate their majesty. Red River is also one of my favourite films, despite me hating John Wayne. But then Monty Clift is in it and the juxtaposition between him and Wayne is fascinating. And there’s that homoerotic gunplay scene with Monty and John Ireland. But, on the whole, I wouldn’t really choose to see most of them.

Yet I know that they can be done well and casual racism and Native-Americans-as-evil tropes are addressed and overturned in more modern ones. And you might get a ‘strong woman’ in there too.

So here’s the thing. In The Magnificent Seven, there’s seven of them (natch) and three of the seven are white.

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We have the unusual blockbuster occurrence that the majority of the heroes are people of colour. Wow, amazing. Pretty wonderful. But then it’s not so great. On the whole, they are ‘types’ that are somewhat clichéd depictions their racial identities: the martial artist Asian character (Lee Byung-Hun), the lone wanderer Native-American character (Martin Sensmeier). With the Mexican character (Miguel Garcia-Rulfo), it’s not him that is the stereotype. No, something much worse happens; that I’ll come to in a minute. But whilst you have all of these characters whose race is addressed, the main character, Chisolm, the big boss of the 7, is black. And no one mentions it. And it’s, what? Late 1880s? When I am pretty sure his presence wouldn’t have been automatically accepted by all and sundry. I have no qualms with Denzel Washington’s casting as the lead role. I love him and he’s good in it and that should happen much more often. But this isn’t a ‘colour blind’ film and so it can’t be a ‘colour blind’ character. It was just very odd. And in a way made the stereotyping of the other non-white characters even more shit.

SPOILER ALERT: I did wonder if the reveal at the end was a reference to his race. As a result of Bad Man Bogue’s greed, Chisolm’s mother was raped, his sisters killed and Chisholm was strung up and bears the scars. Yes, rape, murder etc is something that Bogue’s men do to everyone, but the mention of lynching cannot help but evoke specific racist violence. Still, this doesn’t explain why a whole town – although suspicious when Chisolm first arrives – is totally accepting of him (and indeed the multicult of the whole gang).

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But not all the characters are beyond being racist. Oh no. I was flabbergasted when  Faraday (Chris Pratt), did a ‘lazy, drunk Mexican’ impression to take the piss out of Vasquez and it was not overturned, questioned, or anything. In fact, horrifyingly, the audience I was in laughed. I blurted out, ‘yeah, cuz racism is so funny, isn’t it?’ Why was that  supposed to be funny? It’s not. It’s childish and awful.

Oh but Corinna, I hear you cry, you can’t one minute complain that racism isn’t depicted and then complain when it is. Except it’s not that simple. Up to this point in the film, Faraday has been the jovial, conceited yet charming one. It’s Chris Pratt ffs. So I assume we’re supposed to find this, what, endearing? Are we supposed to laugh with him? I was waiting for the moment later on when this would be addressed in some way, making that incident one that Faraday learns from. But, nope. There’s just more egotistical joshing from Faraday, the lovable, racist cutiepie.

The next problematic character is Jack Horne, played – it has to be said – magnificently by Vincent D’Onofrio. Now, I’ve always thought D’Onofrio is one of the best actors of his generation and despite getting some acclaim, is pretty much underrated considering his chops. He should be being spoken of as the Brando of our time. No, not quite that because he doesn’t do the messy, self-destructive showboating of a Brando. D’Onofrio is so good. And in this, he is, by miles, the strongest of all the cast. He’s so great, though, it’s almost like he’s in a different film. His characterization is just compelling. But his character is a former ‘scalp hunter’ made redundant when the government stopped paying for the slaughter of the indigenous people. Oh, there’s a smidge of ‘tension’ between him and Comanche Red Harvest and a joke is made that Red is nervous about Horne checking out his hairline… cuz genocide is fucking hilarious too, right? So he’s a hideous character with a horrific past. But what do they make fun of? Oh, he’s fat. And he stutters a bit and his voice is high. If Jack Horne had not been a mass murderer of indigenous people I could have fallen in love with him and watched a two hour film just about him as Vincent D’Onofrio played him. Fuck you Hollywood for making the worst of the bunch the most sympathetic and fully rounded. Although I suspect in anyone else’s hands he’d have been as 2D as the rest of them.

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But – racism out of the equation – the shallow, two-dimensional can be ok in a cliché-ridden genre. And I actually liked that director Fuqua pays homage with a gun fight that has a stuntman falling from a saloon balcony, another ‘thrown’ through a window etc, etc. But the casting alone is surely supposed to be addressing race in some way? No, why do that, silly. It would make all the white people in the audience uncomfortable. We’re just there to see all the ‘bad guys’ being shot, right? Because the men the 7 are there to fight are the really evil ones. A genocidal guy is ok, really, because he wants to hang out with the gang and help the poor folks of the town. And those tomahawky, slashy skills are gonna come in real handy when the shit hits the fan.

There’s a female character, played by Haley Bennett who is ‘tough’ but she’s so by-the-by, a cliché in herself as the tough woman in a western and wheeled out at a few key moments and then forgotten so that I couldn’t really care about her. Which, you know, as a chick and a feminist, I should, right? I was more distracted as to why this ‘good wife’ of the town was dressed so that her tits kept showing. Was that for the boys in the audience? So that when the gun fighting and machismo weren’t quite enough for them they had something to look at as the woman shot people and cried? Yeah, she’s got moxie but don’t get threatened because look she’s also got blood spatters on her cleavage. She’s tough but you can think about her tits and her tears.

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The showdown is ok. I was there, I was pulled into the desire for revenge and slaughter of the ‘bad’ army of baddy baddies. But it went on forever and I lost focus and interest part way through it. And, as is my bugbear with most action films, I lost the plot with what I was actually watching. Perhaps sitting front row of an IMAX isn’t a good idea after all. But I have a feeling that even if I watch it on telly it will still be too fast, too much cutting and I’ll start thinking about something else. Like, why are we supposed to care about this again?

The Magnificent Seven is in UK cinemas from Friday 23rd September 

Don’t Breathe


… Or, confessions of a scary movie wuss.

Review by Corinna Tomrley 

I’ve got a really weird relationship with scary films. I generally declare that I don’t do horror films, that I can’t take scary. And, on the whole, it’s true. But then I’ll mention a film I love and someone will say ‘that’s terrifying!’ Or I’ll say I can’t watch something and I’ll get a look of ‘my kid could take watching that’. So I’m contrary. But on the whole, I try to avoid it.

When I was a small kid and we got our first video player my family rented a lot of horror films. I kind of had to watch them so I’d lay there right in front of the TV with my hands beside my face so that no one would see that I’d close my eyes at the terrifying parts and take the piss out of me. But you don’t always have to see to absorb fear. And I heard and saw enough.

I also grew up watching stuff on TV and some of that was Hammer Horror. It developed my burgeoning sexuality and because it was more campy than truly petrifying, I could deal with that. But then there’s things like I adore Carrie, The Exorcist, Amityville Horror. But I cannot cope with Amityville 2: The Possession (it’s all about the POV of the demon. Fucking hell, just writing that…)

But in the last year I’ve been trying to challenge myself a bit when it comes to scary things. I watched The Blair Witch Project for the first time ever. And by myself. At night. (*Proud face) Perhaps not a great idea for someone who has nightmares virtually every night but I did it. And survived. I’m currently editing a horror novel and even though there’s been moments (when I’ve been generally glad it’s day time and not the middle of the night that I got to that bit), I’m dealing with it OK.

And when I got the invite to a press screening of Don’t Breathe I thought, hell. I’m gonna do this.

I couldn’t get anyone to go with me but I still decided to attend. I did prepare myself by watching part of the trailer beforehand, just to make sure that it wasn’t too hideous. There are some topics and scenes that I still won’t put in my head. But it seemed like something I could do. I told a friend and he said ‘I’m immune to horror and I found that trailer terrifying’. This kind of made me more determined to go.

I say I watched part of the trailer and that’s because I prefer to know as little as possible before I go and see a film. It’s more ‘pure’ an experience that way. But because I needed to make sure I could potentially do this I watched a bit. But not all because I didn’t want too much given away. Trailers can be assholes.

When I got there something happened to me that has never happened before at a press screening. Someone talked to me. It turned out he could be scared too and as he has served in Afghanistan it made me feel less wussy that I can get scared. There’s good reasons why this stuff shits us up. It’s not a weakness. He did say that he tends to laugh inappropriately when he’s scared. I said I sometimes did too but was more likely to be heard exclaiming ‘Shiiiiiiiiiiiitttttttttttt!’. Both those things happened. I was glad he was there in the cinema with me. It somehow made it better. As if I had an ally.

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Don’t Breathe is part thriller part horror. I don’t want to give stuff away so I’ll just tell you that it’s about a group of young things breaking in to a house to do a robbery but they get more than they bargain for with the house’s occupant. The villains become the victims and vice versa. I thought I might find it hard to side with the kids but their characters are drawn so that most of them are very likable and you can’t help but put yourself in their shoes. (And then take them off again when you get into the house)

The film is most magnificently shot. It cleverly sets up signposts that at first appear like bleeding obvious exposition but you realize it’s like a game where you have to recall under pressure the clues they gave you. The camera work and editing are gorgeously seamless as well as rightfully showy and it makes this creepy house seem almost beautiful. The acting is really excellent. David Shepherd from Lost has really come into his own. And Jane Levy is good as the woman protagonist – equally savvy, tough and victimy without it being hard to watch as a fellow chick. There’s a bit of squirm misogyny but it does work within the story. I didn’t find it too exploitative and I don’t think it will give me PTSD (I’m not exaggerating here. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the torture scene in Wolf Creek). I did worry that the guy in the house being blind (and being called Blind Man in the credits) would be disablist but it was incorporated rather than being spectacle. There’s always going to be tricky balance issues with both these points. The same with the war-vet as psycho trope.

On the whole the characterization and filming of this story is excellently executed, full of tension, jump scares and tight pacing. The score is creepy as fuck and I was compelled from the first till last shot. I think all these things – as well as watching with an audience instead of scarily at home – made this film one I could handle and certainly one I recommend people checking out. Am I a horror convert? No. I’m still a weirdo about what I can and can’t do. But I’ll keep pushing that bloody envelope, be assured.

Don’t Breathe opens in UK cinemas 9 September 

Carrie


By Corinna ESP Tomrley

I just found out that The ICA are having a 40th anniversary screening of Carrie on 24th September. I squealed and bought a ticket (I’m going to the prom, mama, and you can’t stop me). It’s being presented by feminist film collective The Final Girls and there is going to be a panel discussion. The blurb said something about De Palma’s films being problematic and I get that, when you consider his oeuvre and how women are often helpless victims etc. But – Carrie? Really? They call her a ‘divisive female protagonist’. I can’t wait to hear about that. Divisive how? Surely everyone loves her, roots for her, cheers on her revenge. No?

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For me, Carrie is one of the most powerful women ever to have graced the screen. And, actually, when I was just thinking about it, the character doesn’t even have to be a woman. I’d love to see a version where it is a queer kid (of any gender) who is our hero. Maybe I’ll write that.

Because Carrie is my hero. She has been since I was a kid and first read the novel by Stephen King. And read it over and over and over and over and over. I think I read the novel before I saw the film but can’t swear by that. The experiences probably wouldn’t have been far apart; both incredibly formative. I became a massive Sissy Spacek fan and would watch whatever she was in (they showed loads of great films on tv back then) and can’t remember her ever being in a dud. She has made some amazing films and should be hailed as one of the screen’s greatest ever actresses.

I was also obsessed with ESP, the supernatural, anything like that. ESP was so much a part of our popular culture when I was a kid that, for me, it was totally feasible, totally real. I was terrified by, but enraptured by, films such as Carrie, The Fury (another De Palma), Amityville Horror (I also read the terrifying book of this). I got books and magazines that showed poltergeists at work, spontaneous human combustion, stigmata. This was the world. I believed everything. And, to be honest, even though I’m an ex-sociologist who thinks that everything is social construction and myth is about control, power and self-delusion, I still kind of believe some of this stuff could be true. I still really, really want to be able to move things with my mind. I frequently dream that I can. Oh the crushing disappointment when I wake up and I can’t…

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For anyone who has been bullied – at home, at school, at work, wherever – the revenge film can be an incredible catharsis. Carrie is that. The ultimate revenge movie.

Carrie is a hero and a positive character because she has to find her power. It’s all about the powerless becoming the most powerful and that being her triumph over the adversity she faces. Her power is metaphorical of the power we find when we dig inside ourselves, finding the power within to survive. And the brutal truth of Carrie is that the power we find is often destructive and self-destructive.

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Carrie is the bully-victim’s hero. She is tortured. And doesn’t want to destroy but she has no choice in the face of such day-to-day horror. Because that’s what being bullied is. It’s day-to-day suffering, stress, torture, horror. A day that ends is a day survived but you know you’re going to have to face it all again when you wake up. I didn’t go to school for ages at a time. I got away with it. I missed huge parts of my 4th and 5th years. I have no idea how I passed any GCSEs. (Yes, I’m incredibly intelligent and that must have helped, but I could be awful at exams, especially when I hadn’t been there for half the syllabus)

When you have that torture at home too, you have nowhere physical to run away to. So you run away to the inside of your mind. We somehow find tools to help us escape and survive. Mine was Hollywood, old Hollywood, all films really. And books. Tons and tons of books. And music, singing. I’d sing all fucking day. And I’d fantasize about being a star. And there are other tools too, tools that are destructive but you use them anyway. Like romanticizing thoughts of suicide as the ultimate escape. Marilyn Monroe was another of my heroes. It’s horrific, but I’ve realized through therapy that the shit things are just as much a part of survival as the positive, healthy survival techniques.

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I had a handful of books that I would read as a kid over and over. Valley Of The Dolls (still my favourite novel), Love Story (I can recite the first page and a half by heart, I’ve read that thing so much), a 50s pulp novel called Tomboy, and Carrie. No wonder I grew up to be a camp, queer, weirdo… and have a romantic view of tragic love.

I remember that each time I would re-read Carrie I would be surprised by her description. She’s fat and spotty in the book and that’s part of the reason why she’s bullied. I wasn’t spotty but I was fat. But I wasn’t actually bullied because of that. And, actually, there not being a ‘reason’ why screen Carrie is bullied (the girls never mention her looks) apart from the fact that she has a ‘wacko’ mom and is shy, is more poignant. Yes, if you’re in one of the bullied-victim prime food groups – fat, queer, spotty, nerdy – you’re more likely perhaps to be a target for the lazy bullies, but if you’re not and you’re attacked anyway… it is somehow scarier. Anyone can become a target at any time. Hell, I was bullied by my ‘friends’ when they decided one day they didn’t like me anymore. Talk about bewildering ‘reasons’. And when your home life almost simultaneously shifts to become unsafe… you’re gonna be fucked up and have to find ways to survive. God, if only my hours of trying to move stuff with my mind had paid off and I could do that shit. How much fun would it be to be able to make something fly at someone’s head? Or just to freak them the fuck out? Oh… sigh…

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I’ve watched film Carrie countless times too, including going to see it in the cinema a few years ago. Oh god, it’s a perfect film. The whole cast is sublime. I always get confused because I know I should hate Chris as the prime bully in the film but I fancy Nancy Allen so much. I believe Tommy Ross actually likes Carrie and is glad he gets to squire her to the prom. Amy Irving is wonderful as the bully who has a sudden awakening to how awful her actions are and tries to right her wrongs. This film and these characters are so nuanced. So complex. So real. We know about Sissy. She’s glorious. And Piper Laurie, oh my god. Again, has there ever been more perfect acting? Did the woman win any awards for that? She bloody should have done.

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Amy went on to do The Fury, De Palma’s other ESP film. I saw it again a year ago and it was far more magnificent than I remembered. I knew there was a film I’d seen with a scene where they are testing ESP powers in a lab and when I realized it was The Fury, my kid-fascination with the whole supernatural genre came hurtling back like a thing that Carrie is chucking at someone. It’s kind of silly, kind of terrifying, all wonderful. Amy is the one with powers in that one and she is wonderful as the bewildered teen trying to cope with her ‘gift’. Someone should put on a double bill of Carrie and The Fury. And invite me to come and talk about them. And maybe one day I’ll start a band called Carrie & The Furies and do songs all about ESP and bullied-victims revenge.

On a side note I recently saw Carrie 2: The Rage and I was surprised that I actually really liked it. The telekinetic heroine was stronger than Carrie, but she had that slightly ‘odd’ look that really worked as to why she was picked on. I liked the revenge apocalypse ending. The tattoo thing was rubbish, though. Telekinesis is real. That tattoo thing would never happen.

 

Lesbian Vampires: Vampyros Lesbos


By Corinna ‘Gaze This’ Tomrley

As part of the series on lesbian vampire films I analyze one of the more notorious of the genre, the wonderous Vampyros Lesbos. WARNING: THIS THING IS FULL OF SPOILERS! IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT AND DON’T WANT TO KNOW THE PLOT, STOP READING. THEN QUICKLY GO AND WATCH IT AND COME BACK. THANKS!

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Vampyros Lesbos (1971) stars Soledad Miranda and Uwa Stroemberg. Both are solid, wonderful, magnificent to look at lesbian vampire stars and both would go on to make other horror films with the director, Jesús Franco. Franco himself has an uncredited cameo in the film as the super creepy torturer and killer of women, Memet. It’s a good example of that movie animal – the European co-production. It’s a Spanish-German film shot and set in Turkey, the script in German, the stars Swedish, Spanish and English (old Ealing stalwart, Dennis Price crops up as the doctor). Miranda plays a Hungarian Countess  and Stroemberg an American. Fun fact: Price, bankrupt by the late 60s by gambling and drinking, would star in 5 of Franco’s films. He also made a few Hammers, including lez vamp film, Twins Of Evil.

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Vampyros Lesbos is one of those films that has an almost mythical status. Many have heard of it without seeing it. When a compilation of music from the director’s horror films was released in the 90s as Vampyros Lesbos – Sexadelic Dance Party, the film became a further cult on the back of the success of the CD’s sales. A trippy, psychedelic jazz score (co-written by Franco), the soundtrack is one of the best things about Vampyros Lesbos. It’s actually incredible. But even though the film itself tends to get less than favourable reviews, I would argue that it’s actually a really decent example of the lesbian vampire genre. If taken as it was presumably intended – a European soft porn art film – it is actually great.

I first saw this film in the mid 90s, like everyone else after hearing the soundtrack (that a boyfriend had), and then I simply had to get the video. And oh, my, but that was a very pleasant viewing experience. I hadn’t seen it since and watched it almost fresh for this review. I have to say, I really love this film. It’s right up there with other great lesbian vampire movies.

It looks stunning, it’s compelling and although I’ve read the acting being described as ‘wooden’, that’s a whole part of the genre! Get with the programme, people. Embrace these things for what they are. Are you entertained? Yes. Are you titillated? Hells, yeah. Well then. What more can you ask for?

What’s more, even though I can hear the screams of ‘male gaze’ from the ghosts of feminist film critics past (and present, let’s face it) –  as I will for most of the lesbian vampire films I review for Ethel – I argue that there is a queer subversion to these films that while they were undoubtedly produced for the pervy male gaze, can be reclaimed by a queer agency. Shock announcement: women look too.

And there is no better example of this than in the opening to Vampyros Lesbos. No, not the trippy titles with Soledad Miranda on her back gesturing towards the camera as guttural, demonic psychedelic jazz blasts out. Although she is inviting us and holding our gaze. It’s only presumed that this is for men.

Because, no, I’m referring to the first scene is in a club. Is this a strip club or progressive dinner theatre? We’re not sure but what we watch is more than a little on the ‘arty’ side as much as it is on the porny side.

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A woman, who appears to be imitating a mannequin (and who at times is very convincing. Only they’re not built like that) stands naked at the side of the stage. Another woman (our vamp antihero) looks into a mirror (she has a reflection!) and dances a bit and caresses herself a bit. She rolls around on the floor (nice ass) and then approaches the ‘mannequin’. The dance becomes a strip and reverse strip as the vampire dresses the mannequin in her own lingerie, caressing the mannequin’s body as she does so. When her object of lust is fully dressed the vamp embraces the mannequin who jerkily/animated mannequinly embraces her.

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All the while we focus on one couple in the audience who are watching. This is a usual vampire movie trope – the young, beautiful, seemingly hetero couple. We see that the woman is compelled; her subtle eye widening and mouth twitches suggest arousal. And, actually, wooden my arse; this is the most convincing bit of being turned on by watching that I’ve seen in one of these things.

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Her boyfriend is not aroused: he’s perplexed by her response and very unnerved by it. This is the first subversion of the male gaze. She is the one getting erotic pleasure from this spectacle.

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Although the audience is fully mixed of men and women, mainly couples (and weirdly look like they’ve come out for a nice meal in a bistro and are slightly amused by the show), she is the one who is the most obviously affected here.

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The two dancers fall to the floor and the vamp symbolically bites the mannequin’s neck.

The performance is symbolic, period. It is the dance of a lesbian seducing a ‘straight’ woman and of a vampire seducing a mortal. She appears as a mannequin because she is hypnotized to respond; perhaps we cannot see her going willingly or that would really upset the hetero state of things. She has no choice but to succumb to the succubus. But succumb she does. As does our blonde, watching heroine, Linda.

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We next learn that Linda has been dreaming about this dancer night after night. She tells this to her therapist. But she had never seen the dancer in waking life before the night she saw the show. She’s been having intense erotic dreams that she’s called by the mysterious woman and as they embrace, Linda wakes up, cumming. Her therapist dismisses it as sexual frustration and suggests she get herself a lover. ‘A better lover.’ Bitch, please! Was that therapy in the 70s? Hmmm, actually, maybe they were on to something. No one mentions the bizarre coincidence that her dream woman happened to appear in a strip show Linda got to see, where she seduces a woman on stage. It’s one of many occurrences of a man dismissing what she’s saying. We even see that instead of making notes about her session, he’s doodling stick people and box animals.

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But we will know that what she’s saying is valid. We’ll always know. It is the men who are ignorant, dismissive, unwilling to face what is happening to the woman who is asking for help and support. Fuck me, this could almost be argued to be a feminist film!

It turns out that Linda (who, incidentally looks like a cross between Diana Dors and Geri Halliwell. It’s uncanny, darlings) works for an insurance company and has to go to see a Countess about an inheritance. Guess who that is? And we will find out that the inheritance is bequeathed to the Countess by the estate of Count Dracula; twist!

As she goes to the island to visit the Countess Nadine Carody, Linda sees things that were in her dream:

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a red kite in the sky,

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a trapped butterfly,

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a scorpion,

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mauve and red (paint/blood?) dripping down glass.

It seems the dreams were premonitions of this visit. We will be battered over the head by that bloody symbolic white butterfly and the scorpion. I’m surprised they didn’t give the scorpion a little brunette wig to really hammer the point home.

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Anyway, when Linda sees the paint/blood, she freaks and goes to run away. But with a simple ‘hello/guten tag’ this is reversed and the butterfly is caught in the net.

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Within seconds of meeting the hot countess convinces her to skinny dip. Well, it would be impolite not to.

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When they do, they are watched by a man. This is a familiar trope; the lesbian frolic being observed by a man, unseen by them. In this way, it can be argued that this is all for the male gaze, for men to watch, whether the women know it or not. It happens in a similar way in Lust For A Vampire, but in that case it is the controlling male vampire who is watching. It turns out the watcher here is a minion to the Countess, Morpho.

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But we will learn that Countess Nadine hates men. She gave her neck to Dracula but that was all. She craves women. So Morpho may serve her, but she’s a full on homo and he is made impotent. He can only watch.

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After a drink of ‘wine’, Linda gets an instant headache then passes out. The Countess helps her to ‘recover’ by stripping her, having a bit of a go, then bites her neck.

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Here we see the offspring of Diana Dors and Geri Halliwell.
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Here in the seduction, Nadine mirrors the straddling that the mannequin did in the dance; is this an indication that the ‘victim’ is as powerful as the ‘attacker’? Or that roles are slippery when it comes to lesbian vampire seduction?

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And I have to say, bright scarlet aside, this is one of the best blood drinking scenes I’ve ever witnessed. She really seems to be gulping it down and pulls away leaving a convincing trail of blood and spit.

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Linda wakes to find Nadine floating in the swimming pool with blood on her face.

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She presumes she is dead and faints, waking in a ‘private clinic’ where another blonde, female patient raves about a woman who possesses her and who will return to be inside her. She won’t reveal the name of this woman to her doctor but we know who she means. This woman is at once like Renfield and Lucy in the Dracula story. Oh and she has this weird wooden clown doll thing that looks like a horrific dildo.

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Nadine tells Morpho about how Dracula made her a vampire and that she then went on to possess and take over women victims. Only now Linda has really got to her and she feels like she’s the possessed one. Oh shit, we’ve all been there, right? Jeez, I know I have. ‘I must initiate her into our circle,’ says The Countess. The sewing circle, perchance?

In a reverse of the hetero watching the lez sex, Nadine and Morpho visit Linda’s hotel and watch her being fucked by her bf. Nadine isn’t enjoying it though.

Linda ‘recovers’ but is simultaneously drawn to Nadine and tries to resist her. They share a drink from a big vase and Nadine says, ‘you know that’s blood, right?’

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Then they have sex, with Linda taking the lead.

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Linda goes to the clinic doctor for help. He’s kind of like Van Helsing but confusingly called Dr Seward who is another character in Dracula. Wow, they’re messing with the referencing a lot. Is Linda Jonathan or Meena? Is her boyfriend either or both? Anyway, Doc comes clean that he’s not a psychiatrist but he’s actually a vampirologist and that if she doesn’t want to give in to Nadine she must kill her. No steak through the heart though – she is to be killed by an axe splitting the brain or a spike stabbing it. Bloody hell, that stake is sounding pretty damn good right about now, eh?

Linda’s bf goes to watch the show again and we see a longer version of the stripdance with a groovier bit of the weird score. Instead of symbolically biting the mannequin’s neck she actually goes for it, killing her. But somehow she manages to leave the gig without being arrested. And the bf just stands there watching and smoking. So it’s all a bit redundant. And we don’t even have a good explanation as to why Nadine killed the girl. If she needed blood, why do it publicly? But, hey-ho, we got to see the dance again so I am not complaining.

Nadine turns up at the clinic where the doctor says he actually wants to be a vampire but when she refuses he gets all Latin-god-spouting and so she gets Morpho to kill him.

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Linda goes to Nadine’s house and walking under this AMAZING red tassel chandelier thing on the ceiling (the art direction in this movie is fucking stunning). She finds The Countess laying on a modern modular bed couch deal saying she’s dying and that drinking Linda’s blood is the only thing that will save her.

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We want Linda to give her the drink, don’t we? But we know she won’t because, as with all femme fatale films of certain periods, the vampire must die. Linda tells her that she can’t have her.

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But instead of just straight out killing her Linda at first drinks Nadine’s blood and then stabs her through the eye with a spike.

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Morpho kills himself with the spike but when Linda’s bf and psychiatrist turn up, Nadine and Morpho’s corpses have vampirically disappeared. Bf tries to convince her it was all a dream but she knows better. We know better.

However, what is unclear to us is the answer to this question: is Linda actually a vampire now? After all she drank from the blood of a vampire before she killed her. Isn’t that how it works? Is this supposed to be ambiguous or is it a plot hole? Whatever, I’m going to take it that she is a full-on, card-carrying vamp now and she will find herself a little vamp gf and leave the boring, non-believing stupid bf who can’t make her cum and she’ll have centuries of happy life sucking blood and having lesbian vampire orgasms, the end.

And, you see, I can do this because I am not paralyzed by the male gaze. I can watch and absorb and identify. Part of my sexual formation was watching lesbian vampires. Women on screen who were created to titillate men titillated me instead. And helped me to realize that I’m queer, like femmes and have a penchant for blood and vampires. And because I have this agency as a viewer, like Linda watching the show, I can watch and get turned on, I can then choose whether to go along with the story or, like Linda, make my own. This trippy, porny narrative can actually allow that.

And anyway, women are the ones with all the power in this film. First The Countess, to seduce and possess and to evade capture and finally Linda, to choose her own fate. And the power shifts constantly between the women. They have the gaze for each other and we have the gaze for them.

Have a wee with Pia Zadora


By Corinna 5,6,7,8 Tomrley

If someone told me that they didn’t understand the delicious irony of camp, I would probably show them a Pia Zadora clip. Pia is good and Pia is bad. Pia is a star and yet Pia is also ‘ordinary’. Pia was huge… for five minutes… but Pia endures because she still does goddamn dinner theatre all the time. And although the kind of camp performance that Pia is most magnificently loved for was actually prolific in its time (all the ‘cool’ kids were equally as unhip now and then. Cher, Marc Bolan, David Bowie, I’m looking at you…). It somehow suits someone like Pia more; we expect it of her because she is so hilariously wonderful.

This clip, sent to me by the wonderful Lobotomy Room honey, Graham Russell, sums it up just lovely.

The singing (though pre-recorded) is just adequate, the setting is bizarre. But the dancing, though giggle-inducing is actually – according to our wonderful terpsichorean expert Pal – spot on.

‘I can’t fault Pia. She knows her Stag jumps and her Flick Ball Changes’ – Pal Griffiths

But in a public loo?

Well, yes. Why the flipping heck not? Who HASN’T danced with their knickers around their ankles in a public toilet? And then had everyone else spontaneously joined in once they’ve wiped, zipped and flushed?

Let’s consider a few glorious highlights.

As Graham noted, the pants-at-the ankles bit is ‘in shockingly bad taste. One of them is unwisely wearing patterned panties that makes it look like they have skidmarks!’ One of them hasn’t bothered to pull her clothes down. One is naughtily not wearing any knickers, the tramp. The detail of bits of crumpled loo roll on the floor… wonderousness.

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Pia pushing one of the dancers forcefully into a corner (we’ve all done that, come on).

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The hair: if anyone is looking to actually style actual 80s styles hair for once, look at this. Long perms big and frizzy and vertical, crispy, back-combed within an inch of their lives fringes all the way, baby.

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Likewise, the fashion. Unflattering jumpers? Hot as fuck, darling.

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The graffiti: Mustangs Rule. OK? But what the fuck is that thing?

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Who doesn’t have a whizz in a cubicle that has a poster of a dreamboat taped to the door? The same one on EVERY door? I know it helps me to wee more to look at a hot, leather-jacketed, bare-chested, feather-haired honey.

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The kaleidoscopic video effects… and on and on.

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This thing is so great you can almost forgive Pia for leveling Pickfair because she thought it was haunted.

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Camposphere


Review by Corinna ‘Merms’ Tomrley aka Lezzer Bangs

We need camp in our lives. It is as vital as anger. Actually, it can be an expression of our anger every bit as much as screaming our rage. Camp is rarely frivolous. Camp is fucking subversive.

This is something that people generally don’t get. And this is why we need Camposphere.

When I first heard about Camposphere – an evening soaked in glitter with queer, camp performance and disco dance tunes – I thought I had died and gone to queer heaven, darlings. I had the absolute privilege to interview Camposphere founders Sam Pallis and Chris Nelson for Loverboy. Alas, my Jennifer Ellison/Bob Fosse knee injury* meant I couldn’t make it to the first one. A misfortune that has forever left me with sorrow and regret. But even though that knee decided to play up a bit the night of Camposphere 2 (and I subsequently couldn’t walk without pain the next day) I was not going to miss this again. Even if it meant being carried around by butch queers all night. (Thankfully, that wasn’t necessary. There were chairs)

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As Sam told me (for Loverboy)

“The rise of normcore pushed Camp to the sidelines.  Camp goes in cycles; at points it is seen as attractive and at other times it loses its currency. This time it feels different; the notion of being queer has started to question this cycle, by acknowledging the performative nature of all of these identities. Camp is at the forefront of this movement and through drag it has become a renewed subversive sensibility where anything goes. With Camposphere we want to bring the energy surrounding the London drag scene into the queer music scene.”

And, by glittergoddess, they have done this.

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There is so much vital importance in fun. I adore the queercore scene with all my punky little heart (and there can be humour and tons of fun there) but with camp we sing a different, equally crucial song.

When I was chatting last night with Sam at Camposphere 2 I told him how essential I found Camposphere. He agreed, talking about the loss of our queer spaces, how we need a place for queer entertainment and performance that embraces and shouts about the politics of this happening.

It is so true. We need to celebrate and we need joy and we need to say fuck you, norm world, we’re here, we’re queer and we’re covered head to toe in fucking massive glitter.

So last night at Camposphere 2 I fell in love hard. I fell in love with JOEY FOURR, I fell in love with Georgia Tasda’s fabulously perverted performance. I was already madly in love with GIRLI and… the chance to see her live… with DJ Kitty… om fucking g. And I got to tell her she’s my hero.

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And I fell hardest for Sam and Chris’s own discofunk collective band Latexxx who deserve tons of gigs, a huge cult following and to be heard. HEARD. I can’t actually remember the last time I’ve had so much fun and my heart swelled with so much joy.

Oh and I got covered by a BUCKET full of glitter. No wonder I fell in love. Glitter is the quickest way to my queerheart.

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As much as it was a privilege to interview the whole schlew of Camposphere folk twice for Loverboy, it was an unequaled honour to witness Camposphere 2. Roll on Camposphere 3. We need this in our lives like we didn’t even know.

Read my interview with Sam and Chris for Loverboy

Read my interview with Sam, Chris, JOEY FOURR, and Georgia Tasda for Loverboy

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*If you ask me about this I will bore you tell you all about my embarrassment which has  left me with a lifelong disability. I’m such an asshole.

Polsky


93 Feet East, London

Review by Corinna ‘Merm’ Tomrley (aka Lezzer Bangs)

I’d already fallen for POLSKY. The recent release of their debut My Own Company gives us that LP animal that is very difficult to get right: the concept album. And their concept is that as the music industry has got more and more soulless and more corporate, the band has taken this to its natural conclusion and become is its own corporation. The album explores the fragmentation and disconnection of our technocentric world. But as much as the concept wants to be soulless, the album isn’t. There are love songs in there and there’s a visceral punch to the music that taps and touches all those buttons that make you smitten with an LP.

And their music is diverse; it would be very rude just to categorise it as ‘indie’. It’s a mishmash of styles. Postpunk, electro pop, punkdisco, there’s hints of early Boo Radleys, Talking Heads, Angelo Badalamenti, Blondie, and even a touch of Echo & The Bunnyman in there. And with each play through you hear more and more layers. Even though there’s bit of this and that (from disco to bossa nova), it’s completely cohesive. And so, of course, I’m crushing big time on this music and this band.

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But I had yet to see them live. I had no doubt they could do live. None at all. I wasn’t worried. But I did wonder how this superproduced soundscape would translate to being played in front of an audience.

Well.

What I discovered is that there are two POLSKYs. There’s the studio one and the live one. And they are both great. There were technical difficulties riddling their set but actually it didn’t dent the experience. From the opening bars of Halcyon Daze to the closing notes of Nimbus Cumulus, this band pulls you in, punches you in the guts, tears your heart out and snogs you hard. Well, metaphorically.

Chatting with them after I was told that they came together disparately but now they are a family and I totally get that. Their warmth, support and wordless communication on that stage could be felt and seen.

I was most looking forward what has become my favourite track, Halcyon Daze. Can we talk about how much I frikking love this song? It was a grower and was only after about, oh I dunno, a gazillion plays that I realized why I adore it. It’s disco! Of course I love it, I am D.I.S.C.O. But it’s punkdisco. I was recently discussing this crossover genre with a friend and we were saying how early punk and early disco had very queer beginnings and that there were a plethora of acts that came out of that and mashed the two styles together perfectly. Think Blondie, Grace Jones, Divine, and then consider early Madonna. So you can hear all of that in Halcyon Daze but it goes beyond that. It’s as if Talking Heads did disco. Maybe they did, I dunno, did they? Anyway, it’s fucking amazing¸ this song. It’s SO disco on the album. And it’s their next single (video to come soon, I’m so excited). Therefore, I was really looking forward to shaking my good thing to that track at the gig. But. It was so full on electropunk. I was disappointed for a nanosecond and then… then, I just went with it and it was fucking incredible.

Conclusion: I love both POLSKYs, I love both Halcyon Daze. And POLSKY are an amazing studio band and an awesome live band and you should see them if you ever get the chance. And buy their album. Now.

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Corinna @ Loverboy magazine

 

Geist


I was anticipating very good things from Geist, Lover. You only have to watch some of the music videos to appreciate that as a postpunk performer, the creation ‘Alexander Geist’ is an amazing pop star. And the concept and the conceit… oh, I was very excited. And I was not disappointed. I just wanted more.

‘Alexander Geist’ is the fictional persona of genderqueer artist La JohnJoseph. From an undisclosed time (that feels very early 80s but seems to slip and slide around), perhaps from Berlin or perhaps from England, queer, marvelous, just… incredible… Alexander Geist is the ultimate star. A mask, a character, an image, a gesture. It is as if Marlene Dietrich, David Bowie, Marc Almond, Arletty, early 80s Annie Lennox, Jacques Brel, Grace Jones, and Ute Lemper all merged into one, magnificent entity. Alexander Geist may be made up but they are as real as any superstar persona ever is.

La JohnJoseph is the consummate performer. You can tell that they have worked on every word, every gesture, every brush stroke of makeup, every single detail to make this immaculate creation just perfection. But although there is a chill about Alexander Geist, they are not cold, 2D or false. You feel the pull of this charisma – is it La JJ? Is it Geist seducing us? Is it both, Lover?

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Geist, the show, ran for two nights at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston, London. One can only presume that this was a preliminary run ahead of something bigger later on. Because this show deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. It is compelling, fun, and has twists coming out the hoo-hah. The only frustration is that I wanted whole songs, to watch a Geist concert in amongst the storyline. I understand very well why that could not be the case… but it just goes to show how complete a creature Geist is. And how wonderful the music is.

I will not give away any spoilers. The synopsis, on its surface, is simple – Geist is dead and a documentary maker seeks to uncover the truth of their demise. She has found the tapes of the last concert Alexander Geist performed before their tragic end and thinks she has discovered the secret behind that fateful night.

As magnetic and superb as La JJ is in the lead role, they are not the only actor in this play. We hear the voice of the documentary maker and see the projected interviews of a biography writer and the executrix of the Geist estate. And it is the latter who becomes a major character in this tale and the actor Fran Lima manages to draw our eyes away from La JohnJoseph as the story unfolds… no small feat, Lover.

By Corinna ‘Merm’ Tomrley

Top image by Marco

Bottom image by Stevie Hanley

Debbie


By Corinna ‘Mermaid’ Tomrley

 

When Debbie Harry confirmed that she is bisexual and had indeed had those rumoured affairs with women, queer girls’ hearts rejoiced across the land. Of course we don’t need confirmation that a star is queer to fancy them, or for them to even be queer, but it’s nice if they do come out, yes? ‘Women are more sensual’, cooed our Deb. Oh, my but we’re flushed… and damp…

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Debbie Harry at 71 is as hot a goddess as she’s always been. Hotter. She is one of the superstars who is incomparable to anyone else (indeed Blondie were unlike anyone else) and who will always have a huge impact on the culture, no matter what she does.

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He style, her attitude, her sexiness. Oh. Mah. Gawd. Debbie, we love you ❤

Debbie was punk and disco and old Hollywood and slut chic and believed she was the adopted child of Marilyn Monroe. She was pushed down your throat partially dressed hyper sexuality that if you dared touch uninvited she’d kick you in the teeth. Now she is advanced style fuck age appropriate in your face drop dead gorgeous goddess fierceness. Debbie Harry, we love you ❤

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Fun fact: Debbie is one of a group of uber fabulous divas who are 70/71: Cher, Dolly, Liza all turned 70 this year and Bette Midler is also 70 (she’ll be 71 in December). So what was it about the years 1945 and 1946 that produced such queer icons, we wonder? Cuz also born then were Divine, John Waters, Goldie Hawn, Priscilla Presley, Jaclyn Smith, Susan Tyrell, Jocelyn Wildenstein, Susan Sarandon, Suzanne Sommers, Patty Duke…

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