Rubber Cult returns to Shillibeers on September 27 for another celebratory a — its last event of 2014.
Its previous night on May 31 provided me with my first opportunity to check out the event after its return to Shillibeers, its original north London venue.
Friends who knew of my long-standing reservations about Rubber Cult — a great idea flawed by too much cost-cutting in its stage presentations — had assured me that things had greatly improved since Shillibeers had re-opened.
And as I turned off Islington’s North Road into Carpenter’s Mews on this warm, early summer evening, the crowd of punters at the other end of the mews, cheerily mingling outside the venue entrance, certainly looked promising.
When the warm summer nights finally arrive each year in London, the appetite for fetish partying in the capital — especially anything involving the wearing of rubber — usually diminishes dramatically.
And given that this early summer date in the club’s quarterly schedule arrived at the end of what had been the hottest May for many years, I had feared numbers would be considerably down on those achieved under more favourable conditions.
But, as I negotiated my way through the outer doors and past the ticket desk, it became evident that these fears were pretty much groundless. The venue was almost as packed (and the queue at the bar almost as deep) as on that amazing February night in 2013 when Rubber Cult and I were first formally introduced.
Once inside, my next aim was to find someone — anyone — I knew. Most kinky clubbers are familiar with the adjustment period needed when you first enter a club and cross the threshold from vanilla into fetish space. It often takes a little time to find your bearings and spot that first familiar face.
But for anyone arriving at Rubber Cult, it’s even harder, since the vast majority of people in one’s field of view — whether tending towards the fashionista or rubberista persuasion — will be hooded.
And it can be embarrassing when a hooded person who obviously knows you comes up and greets you warmly, and you haven’t the faintest idea who they are.
You have to go through a mental checklist: do I recognise this person’s voice/eyes/lips/teeth/demeanour/outfit? Or do I not? And if I don’t, what then?
Maybe just smile, nod, agree with whatever they mumble through their latex headgear, and offer to snap a few pictures of them in their outfit, all the time hoping they won’t notice that you haven’t a clue who’s been talking to you.You go through a mental checklist: do I recognise this person’s voice/eyes/lips/teeth/demeanour/outfit? Or do I not? And if not, what then?
I suspect that for some hood-wearers, this is very much part of the fun of head-enclosure, while others might be offended to think you’re not sufficiently on the case to twig the identities behind their disguises.
Which kind are you? That is the type of question that people ask in FetLife’s Latex Lovers group — and that other people with too much time on their hands volunteer to answer. Let’s leave it to the latter group to ponder.
As it happens, I did on this occasion rather quickly spot a couple of people I knew, owing to the fact that neither of them was disguised. Sitting at a table near the bar were EctoMorph designer Krystina Kitsis and Evelyn Fraser, a stalwart of Bondinage’s stands at many a German Fetish Fair.
I’d promised to sign Evelyn‘s copy of the special ‘rubber-bound’ edition of Fetish, my first Carlton Books photo anthology. You can spend all night at a club trying to spot someone you’ve made that kind of promise to, so it was good to be able to take care of it right at the beginning of the evening, while still sober enough to write coherently.
I quickly noticed one obvious improvement in Rubber Cult’s performance arrangements that friends had been alluding to. The Shillibeers stage, originally a small triangular affair in a corner to the right of the entrance (as you enter), had been relocated to the left-hand side.
It’s now a bigger, more rectangular space, on the same side as the loos and the stairs up to the balcony cloakroom/dressing room area. This provides a more direct stage access route for performers, who no longer have to fight their way through the middle of the crowd in the main bar.
However, this seemed to be the only corner that had been cut in a good way. The new stage is still lit by the same, single, studio-style light as before, now merely rotated through 180 degrees to face the opposite direction.
As the stand supporting the lamp is not quite tall enough, the light from it can be interrupted by people passing in front of it while a show is in progress. I myself inadvertently added some shadow puppetry to the Breathless fashion show while attempting to find a decent photography position spot at the front.
Before (and between) the shows, Rubber Cult host Kim and co-host Cynth Icorn take to the stage to make various announcements and/or presentations. Tonight there were costume prizes, a birthday, even an engagement (of the marital variety) — all presented with a retro panache reminiscent of 1970s holiday camp show nights.
First performance proper was number one of two shows by Marnie Scarlet. Marnie is pretty much a fixture at Rubber Cult and it’s a tribute to her ever-expanding repertoire that you are unlikely to see the same show/outfit twice.
Tonight’s opener featured a trouser-suit in red-polka-dot-patterned white latex, from which she produced, just for a change, a blow-up cock ’n’ balls rather than her trademark inflatable labia.
Marnie’s amazing latex outfits, typically featuring one-eyed hoods, wittily reflect the lyrics of the music track that she performs and lip-syncs to, and it’s always worth trying to be close enough to the stage to catch every nuance of the interpretation.
Like Marnie before her, MisSa Blue has a penchant for stapling stuff to her bare flesh. And tonight there was plenty of bare flesh available
After Marnie came MisSa Blue, who started a sort of ‘reverse strip’ in a fairly advanced state of nudity. Like Marnie, MisSa has a penchant for stapling stuff to her bare flesh. And tonight there was plenty of bare flesh available.
She ended her act with some of that flesh covered by transparent latex she’d affixed to herself by the aforementioned means.
The last Rubber Cult of 2014 is at Shillibeers Bar, Carpenter’s Mews, North Road, London N7 9EF on September 27, from 8pm to 2am.
There will be performances by Italian fetish icon Valentina Fetish Doll, and princess of pain/extreme side show artiste Le Snake Fervor.
Current Fetishistas cover star Lacing Lilith makes its Rubber Cult debut showing its distinctive latex designs.
There’ll be an exhibition of the work of legendary San Francisco fetish artist Michael Manning.
And the Rubber Sisters Doll Parlourwill be on hand to offer a taste of transformation.
Plus all the usual Rubber Cult features including full dungeon and medical corner, and best-dressed prize sponsored by Slinky Skin.
There’s a strict latex dresscode, apart from shoes and accessories.
Tickets: online from Fatsoma at £23 £2.30 booking fee; in person at £25 from .Atsuko Kudo, Breathless, House of Harlot and Liberation; or on the door at £28.
But, while it may technically have been a reverse strip, there was never any point where you could honestly say that MisSa had put any clothes on.
The Breathless show was a colourful parade of different styles — both women’s and men’s — from this popular London latex house.
There were men’s and women’s military uniforms, a corseted fin-de-siècle chap, a luxurious full length gown and a couple of leopard-print creations including a striking mini-dress, hood and hat combo modelled by Ana Mantis.
Marnie’s second show was inspired by Andy Warhol, the performer dressing as a latex version of Warhol’s silk- screen-printed Marilyn Monroe with yellow wig, white dress and bright pink face and legs, alongside a pile of giant Campbell’s Soup cans.
I can’t for the life of me remember what the soundtrack was, but there was a strong theme of booze, fags, perfume and prescription drugs running through the act.
It finished with Marnie/Marilyn zipping herself into a bodybag/coffin in the colours of a giant pack of famous-brand ciggies. Oh, the symbolism!
All the shows were enjoyable, and for me there was a delightful social aspect to the night too, with interesting new connections made and stimulating conversations conducted during this warm evening of rubbery fun.
For example, January Seraph, Californian dominatrix and model/performer of no small renown, was on a visit to the UK and had promised to come along with her other half to check the London event out.
The couple arrived with their friend Bellatrix, a UK-based prodomme, and later, these two very photogenic women posed together for me for some shots outside in the yard.
Bella and I found plenty to chat about, and later I discovered that my enthusiasm for the upcoming German Fetish Ball in Berlin had persuaded her that she should head out there herself for the event. As far as I know it was a decision she didn’t regret.
I was also introduced to Kirsty, the charming designer behind the Slaughter House Couture label, who specialises in bespoke latex for the UK’s dominatrix fraternity — several of whom were wearing her creations here tonight.
And I finally got to have a chat with Amsterdam-based latex designer Sebastian Cauchos, whose disguise had fooled me when he’d performed with Amarantha LaBlanche at RC’s December 2013 gathering.
Last but not least, it was a pleasure to see old friends Tony and Paula enjoying a night off from their popular rental facility in Warwickshire.
I left Shillibeers feeling that my time there had been well spent, and hoping that I’d be seeing some of these same folk again on September 27. For that evening’s line-up, see the drop-down panel above the galleries, top right.
Friday, 19 September 2014