Set the scene: a smokey, dark cabaret club. Velvet clothed tables. The host of the night, Bernadette Byrne (Jennifer Byrne) is already in the audience, asking unsuspecting patrons where their drinks are. She takes a swig from her bottle of gin. We're not used to seeing the performer interacting so directly with the crowd. She drinks again.
Bernadette 'Bernie' Byrne: feathered, of vaguely European heritage, a self-described 'cross between Lady Gaga, Marlene Dietrich and Noel Fielding in sequins.' She opens with a sultry rendition of Jason Derulo's 'Talk Dirty To Me' and instantly seduces the audience with her German accent and stunning vocals. One half of the British cabaret duo Eastend Cabaret, The Little Death Club is Bernie's solo venture.
Bernie may liken herself to other celebrities, but the diva in question cannot be entirely compared to anyone else, because she is entirely, wonderfully unique. With her studded high heels, risque songs, and her penchant for sitting in the audience's laps, the infamous Mistress of Mayhem and Queen of Kink introduces us to the most debauched variety show in town.
L-R: Asher Treleaven, Dimitri Hattan, Miss Gypsy Wood, and Jess Love.
Although the lineup changes between state shows, Bernie introduces Adelaide to her recent selection of 'fantastic freaks.' First on stage: sexual gentleman Asher Treleaven, whose dramatic retelling of pseduo-erotic literature gave us an indication of what to expect for the rest of the evening. With content that had all the sensuality of a Wattpad fanfiction, Asher's enunciation, lewd hand gestures, and running commentary spotlighted his perfect comedic timing, and might've taught a few men in the audience what not to do in the bedroom.
Cue Dimitri Hatton: French, wearing spandex, and Bernie's cousin. Dimitri wanted to 'spread all of his love all over us', which triggered more than a few horrified expressions. Considering the spandex, of course. Shameless, flirtatious, Dimitri's sense of humour is not one for the faint-hearted or straight-laced, and we saw a LOT of skin by the end of the night. I seriously considered putting my hands over my sister's eyes.
At half-time, Bernie sang us a song about her ex-lover from Berlin (who, coincidentally, was in the back row of the audience!), whose kinky fantasies resulted in a Chewbacca costume, a trip to the hospital, and a summary that I kept brief because this is a PG website. Let it be said: Bernadette's voice is sublime, and her wit sharp. You can't take your eyes off her.
Bernie announced the performance of visionary and Former Miss Teen USA, Miss Gypsy Wood, who told of us of her innovation to unite the world, followed by a jazz performance with an interruption that scandalised both the audience and her, judging by her appalled screeches behind the curtains.
Lastly, the headlining act: Notorious Strumpet (and Australian born) Jess Love. The Dangerous Girl is a hula-hooping sensation - with her hula-hoop tricks, deadpan expression, and inconvenient fishnet tights that made it difficult to spin multiple hoops (of course, the only logical solution is to simply remove them), Jess is one of a kind.
As a whole, Little Death Club is improper, seductive, and hilarious. The performers are all captivating in their own way, and the individual talent is unmistakeable. It's a seasoned lineup that makes sense, for each performer has an underlying connection with one another through the way in which they entertain. Bernie is the kind of host that everyone fell a little bit in love with - her brashness, kinkiness, and flair is what ties everything together.
Although you'll leave scandalised, it would be disappointing if you didn't.
Note: show does contain nudity.
Several performers have their own shows at the 2017 Adelaide Fringe:
Bernadette Byrne: EastEnd Cabaret.
Photos via Dead Man (Tom Velvick.)