In February, Rubber Cult returned to Shillibeers, its original north London home, after a bout of venue-hopping caused by Shillibeers’ temporary closure last spring.
While on the move, the strict dresscode club put down temporary roots at various City of London hostelries, such establishments being easier to book on Saturday nights because the financial district is much quieter than other parts of the capital at weekends.
The first of two RC nights I attended during its itinerant phase was also the first the rubber club had to organise after the shock news that Shillibeers had gone into receivership. It had to be put together at short notice under stressful conditions.
The new venue, not far from Tower Gate DLR station, looked great on its website, with its multi-level bars and numerous connecting staircases.
But once inside, one realised that it consisted almost entirely of narrow passageways and stairs, with not a decent open space anywhere for people to congregate en masse, and certainly nowhere obvious for performances.
I must therefore doff my metaphorical cap to those charged with providing the evening’s various distractions.
For example, Brighton-based artist Michelle Mildenhall (see Fetishistas Talent article, August 2012) had mounted an exhibition of her striking latex portraits above one of the staircases.
Below, in the small, starkly lit corner space designated as the night’s ‘stage’, Am Statik’s Amy Day appeared in her Luna Eve performer guise to deliver one of her now well-known syringe shows, pumping coloured fluid between transparent layers of her latex outfit.
Ectomorph designer Krystina Kitsis also somehow managed to put on a fashion show in what I would consider almost impossible conditions for such a venture.
She achieved this by having her models walk up and down the stairs, and to and fro along the passageways that intersected at the performance corner.
As someone trying to photograph this activity, I found it rather challenging that models sometimes seemed to be coming at me from three different directions at once.
Several times I snapped someone who turned out not to be in the show, but just a random person walking through the same space. Since everyone was wearing latex (and many were hooded), it was quite difficult to determine where the models finished and the punters began.
To add insult to injury, my camera and flash combo seemed intent on behaving badly, so I didn’t get that many usable shots for my trouble. All in all, despite everyone’s best efforts, it felt like it just wasn’t my night.
But it must have been evident to many of these folk that this place was no match for Shillibeers, and had not attracted the fetish celebs and mover’n’shaker types in the quantities that had turned out for the previous event (causing me to deliver an enthusiastic Fetishistas report).
It seemed obvious to me that to continue building its initial momentum, RC needed to get back to a setting that would attract both types — high profile latex fashionistas and more traditional rubberists.
I left rather early, hoping that circumstances would not force Rubber Cult to continue beyond its one night at this charmless place.
By the time I made it to another Rubber Cult, it was December 2013 and the club had re-appeared at City of London hostelry The Slug and Lettuce in St Mary Axe.
In many ways a far more suitable venue for an RC gathering than the last one I’d attended, it still turned out to have no proper performance space.
There was just a cleared area of floor with a background sheet suspended between two poles, illuminated by the same single video light that had constituted the event’s sole ‘stage lighting’ since first booting up at Shillibeers.
Any thoughts of mine that the evening would see a big turnout of fetish celebs had already been banished by the discovery that it was on the same date as Torture Garden’s Christmas party. Not the smartest piece of scheduling the world has ever known, you might think.
My main reason for leaving home on this chilly December evening was not wanting to miss the London debut of Amarantha LaBlanche
Nevertheless, there were a few well-known faces and a respectable (if that’s the right term) turnout of more anonymous rubberist types, many of whom would probably rather eat their own kidneys than go to a TG night anyway.
I confess that my main reason for leaving the warmth of my home on this chilly December evening was not wanting to miss the London debut (postponed from the last event) of Amarantha LaBlanche, who had endured a long coach journey from Amsterdam to make this appearance.
I wish someone had told me that the guy in the black hood and gasmask she was onstage with was Sebastian Cauchos, the Amsterdam designer whose work was the subject of a great Fetishistas cover story by Heidi Patterson back in September 2013.
But no one did, so this was yet another event he and I have been at together, without making contact.
Given the limitations of the performance space — which was rather like somebody’s front room, complete with dining table — their show certainly pushed all the right rubbery buttons (see our first gallery, above right).
Amarantha began cocooned inside a natural latex bag, from which she emerged, hooded and catsuited, to execute a series of sensuous ballet-inspired moves (she used to be a ballerina).
Like a serpent she shed her black skin, revealing another, transparent skin beneath, before being helped into a latex dress by the ever attendant Sebastian.
Then like a predatory female spider she turned on her partner, cocooning him in the latex that had originally enveloped her, and forcing him slowly to the floor before doing a sort of victory dance while straddling his rubber- bound form. Sitting on the Cauchos, you might call it.
The evening’s other performer was Marnie Scarlet, a Rubber Cult regular who delivered two eyecatching shows. One (shown on the right) featured red and white layers of latex and her trademark inflatable rubber labia.
In the other (a show I’ve enjoyed before) she tore out her ’bleeding heart’ — spattering much fake blood on a second white latex outfit — before patching up the ‘wound’ by stapling a square of lace direct to her naked breast.
Complementing these three performances was a fashion show from SlinkySkin, the ‘heavy rubber meets high style’ British label whose trademark designs include possibly the most aesthetically perfect inflatable rubber ball hoods on the market.
The available floor-space provided even more of a challenge to the fashion show than to the solo acts.
But somehow SlinkySkin managed to parade a selection of designs — on models including cabaret performer MisSa Blue — that included a mermaid-tail outfit and unicorn catsuit as well as the aforementioned ball hood, teamed here with an inflatable armless straitjacket.
It was rather unfortunate that the SlinkySkin show and one of Marnie’s performances were both victims of wrong soundtracks played by whoever was in charge of the audio.
But bad things can happen when you don’t have your own sound engineer and you rely on a ropey club sound system with one intermittently-working microphone.
Sadly, Rubber Cult has got ‘previous’ for this: lack of adequate performance facilities has been a recurring weakness since the night was originally at Shillibeers.
I appreciate that for a good number of the club’s regulars, the wearing and sharing of their fetishwear in a real (rather than virtual) social environment is probably far more important than having shows to watch.
But if the club doesn’t want to cater just to these people, and does want to keep shows as part of its offering, then it needs to spend at least something on better staging, a decent sound system and sound engineer, and more than just one video light.
I hope that by the next Rubber Cult at Shillibeers on May 31 (details in the panel on the right), improvements will have been made in this department. It would be such a shame to spoil this ship for a ha’porth of tar.
Friday, 28 February 2014
The next Rubber Cult, hosted by Miss Kim and Cynth Icorn, is on Saturday May 31, from 8pm to 2am at Shillibeers, Carpenter’s Mews, North Road London N7 9EF (nearest Tube: Caledonian Road).
The UK’s only ‘total rubber’ event, Rubber Cult boasts a total rubber dresscode (latex/rubber/gummi) with exceptions made only for accessories, eg stockings, gloves, hats, bags, footwear etc.
Each night includes total rubber cabaret, latex only catwalk shows, an exhibition by an artist or photographer whose speciality is rubber images, and specialist rubber equipment/dungeon/medical installation.
The event is designed for socialising, with music kept at background levels to make chatting easier. Among the entertainment lined up for May 31 is a fashion show from Breathless and cabaret from MisSa Blue.
Tickets via Club Tickets cost £23 plus £2.30 booking fee. Tickets in London fetish shops are £25 and tickets on the door are £28. London ticket outlets: Atsuko Kudo, Breathless, House of Harlot and Liberation.
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