On a cold November evening we queued in a subway under Waterloo Station with shadowy figures in hoodies everywhere practising their graffiti art. The smell of paint aerosols filled the air as we waited patiently for the doors of The Vaults theatre to open. We heard wolf whistles as a man appeared from inside wearing some flimsy Greek apparel. As we went inside for a 'performance' of Divine Proportions I suspect many of us wondered exactly what we would be seeing. The show has been running since September but this evening was a special 'clothes optional' event for the audience and most stripped off straight away in the large bar area. Many had taken the Greek myths theme on board and were wearing appropriate headgear or various pieces of carefully draped cloth. Gradually the room filled with a hundred or so people and we recognised a number of BN members.
So what was it all about? The evening was all about the sum of the parts. Firstly, we were chatting in a bar area... and the Vaults definitely has a great underground atmosphere. Then gradually some of the cast made appearances whilst teasing the audience, followed by Madonna's Like a Prayer with cast and audience singing and dancing. The cast - and not just for tonight - were only partially costumed; topless with body paint, glitter and make up. We had Dionysus and the Maenads, then later Aphrodite, Eros and Persephone. There was comedy and most of it was quite raunchy. You probably wouldn't want to be there with your Mum...the line that summed the event up was 'Fornication and drinking to excess is hard work...but someone has to do it.'
After about an hour we were led up to the main area where the next phase took place. The room had three long tables with a stage at one end and a bar at the other. As each course progressed there was more singing, comedy, dance and dialogue from the cast. The food itself was very different and actually much better than I expected. The menu was quirky and different. Ingredients such as pink cured kohlrabi and puffed amaranth were certainly new to me. The dessert of caramelised white chocolate, coconut milk and honey ganache, pomegranate, figs and flowers was particularly yummy. We had plenty of time to chat at the tables as well which was a plus.
At the end of the show I chatted with two of the cast and asked them if it had been very different with a naked audience. They both agreed that the audience had been terrific, really responsive and it had really added to the atmosphere. This had been exactly the same reaction when I interviewed the cast of Hair at the same venue last year.
After the show we returned to the bar area for a disco and the dance floor was packed. Some of the cast joined in - fully naked this time. If the music was a little modern for our tastes it was fine for the mainly younger folk who danced and we gave it a good bash as well! We spent over five hours at the venue and had a fun time. If you were expecting a play with a plot you would have been disappointed. I think some of the people I have known from naturist clubs in years gone by would have been apoplectic at the idea of Naturism in this setting but most have us have moved on and know that naked dancing doesn't lead to an orgy on the disco floor. I suspect many of the younger members of the audience were not from naturist backgrounds and clearly loved the experience and I'm sure will be looking to do more of the same.
The reviewer in Time Out said, 'It’s rare that we’d advocate being naked during a show, but this is one of the rare occasions where the humidity might suit the free-your-inhibitions vibe.' Amerie Rose of Theatre Obscura said, "What a marvellously willing crowd, edging into the unknown and finding safety, good company and a wonder-filled time."
Chris Grady of the Chris Grady organisation has to be thanked for once again enabling this clothes free event and making sure BN members were invited. Chris was also responsible for the clothes optional Hair audience last year. He told me, '"It made me joyful to see the glory of the human body. Every form of revelation and adornment on show. It seemed sensuous and on fire. I am sure Dionysius and the gods will have been smiling"