First impressions of the Wam Bam club should be treated with caution. Situated in the heart (or, given the circumstances, probably some other less poetic body part) of Soho, there is a good chance you will see more naked breasts just trying to find it than you will once the show starts. Once you’ve made it past the imposing-sized bouncers, a red velvet staircase decorated with mirrors and gold will take you to a hidden enclave, which could pass for an 18th-century bordello. Here, you will learn that first impressions can be most deceptive – a revelation that will likely lead to the most psychotropic, surreal and enjoyable night of the season.
The room is crowded. The circular tables are crammed close together, and unless you’ve pre-booked, count on sharing your personal space with other patrons. The curtains are drawn and vintage striptease, interspersed with Charlie Chaplin movies, is projected for your entertainment while you wait for the show to begin. Getting soused is not recommended unless you’re celebrating a paycheck: a double vodka will set you back almost £10. Nonetheless, the evening is worth every penny.
Lady Alex, a feisty retro-styled gal, announces the acts and gets the crowd going during the intermissions. The crowd in question is remarkably apprehensive, despite the gloriously shocking things it is about to witness. For those of you whose lives have a focal point outside of the internet, let me introduce you to something called ‘Rule 34’. Coined by people hardened by horrors such as the Pain Series (don’t Google it), Rule 34 dictates that if something exists (a kitten, a rolling pin, Pokémon), there will also exist a pornographic variation of it. Nothing has supported this theory for me more than the Wam Bam.
It all starts innocuously enough: burlesque duo Frivolitease are the opening act, with a sweet ‘n’ sexy routine that goes from nice to naughty at the flick of a DJ’s wrist. After that, it gets weird. Pavabotti, as the name would suggest, is a fantastic act for those of us who have always held the belief that opera and unconventional striptease is an underappreciated combination. The larger-than-life performer is the darling of the ladies in the audience, who perhaps can’t decide whether they should applaud or polish off their vodka martinis for visual courage before things escalate.
The atmosphere is fantastic all evening. Lady Alex ensures the mood remains in a tipsy, apprehensive fascination. The acts interact with the punters (in one particularly entertaining instance a magician pulls a girl onstage to demonstrate his amazing shoving-needle-into-eyeball trick), and as the evening progresses, everyone is bound to find something to their particular liking. There’s saucy girls for the gentlemen, charismatic magicians for the ladies and a routine involving a Star Wars stormtrooper wearing nipple tassels (for the, er, special members of the audience).
The evening finally ends in the climax of drag-queen-cum-mime Ryan Styles’s act. From the school of totally bizarre, he combines theatre, dance, glitter, blurred gender definitions and a completely science-defying balloon routine to finish the show on a spectacular high.
It is an evening of whimsy and wonder indeed. It is a grown-up, sexy distortion of what the circus was like for us as kids: glamorous and wondrous, but just that little bit frightening.