Deliciously filthy variety show Little Death Club is running at the Underbelly Festival with a confederacy of fabulous freaks taking to the stage for the next nine weeks. Here the show’s Mistress of Chaos, Bernie Dieter, explains why this is a spectacle not to be missed.
Hi Bernie, how are you?
I’m great thanks, enjoying the beautiful summer sunshine. And it’s kind of making me want gin for breakfast, which is confusing but also quite good.
There’s nothing wrong with gin at breakfast.
Absolutely not, darling. No. Gin is good at any time of day.
OK so in basic terms, how would you describe what Little Death Club is?
It is a dark, debauched cabaret club, kind of like a lock-in in the Spiegeltent. It’s as if you’ve stumbled on a kind of lynching diorama with all of these punks, freaks and weirdos inside, and anything could happen.
And can you tell us the story of where you got the idea from? Because this was inspired by your grandmother’s family, wasn’t it?
Yes, absolutely. My Oma, my grandmother, her family owned a circus in Germany just before the war, so it was a proper old school circus with clowns and animals and dancing girls. But she was forced to flee from East to West Germany when the political climate changed and she was hiding under sequinned costumes. Basically she is my spirit animal; she’s always been my inspiration. She always taught me to embrace difference and embrace everyone you meet like they are family, which is something that in this current political climate as well is quite important, I think. So that’s the message we try to have in this show, you know: difference is beautiful and we should celebrate it, not fear it.
How did the show come together? How did Little Death Club happen?
It started in Berlin in a little pub, very small, and it was always a late-night lock-in. And I’m lucky enough to be friends with a lot of the infamous cabaret performers, so I was able to invite my friends to come and perform their most notorious, out-there, edgy, filthy acts – the acts that they weren’t allowed to perform anywhere else. It was a big party where we would all drink together, all celebrate each other’s work and the audience would really become part of that. So that’s how it started and from that it really grew. Now it’s a set cast touring the world, which is really exciting.
You are the host and you also perform – can you describe your act and what you personally do as a performer?
I like to refer to myself as the Mistress of Chaos. I’m there with my Weimar punk jazz band and we sing a lot of original songs, so a lot of social commentary. It’s funny as hell and quite filthy, but I think you can totally handle that, my darling.
Of course! And you’ve got five other acts…
Yes, so for each season we have a set cast and all the acts are on each night. We have our gender-bending contortionist Beau Sargent – oh my god you will love him, he’s absolutely beautiful, and the
things he can do with his body will blow your mind.
And if I ask you about the others, could you say a bit about each of them?
OK, so, Kitty Bang Bang…
She is the fire-breathing, bad ass of British burlesque. She is an absolute punk.
He’s actually an Australian character comedian and he’s doing a character who is essentially a pissed-off French man.
And Fancy Chance…
Fancy Chance is a five-foot-four, Korean-American hair-hanger, so she is a little pocket rocket who attaches a hook into her hair and flies above the audience. She is just phenomenal. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
And finally, you have an act who we know all about here at Boyz magazine. We probably know more about her than you do, but what is your impression of Myra DuBois?
Well, I mean, you know, she needs no introduction really, but we call her the Siren of South Yorkshire. The voice of a bird – I think she says ‘swallow or thrush?’ And she pulls a mean pint too, which is always a good skill to have.
I think she would probably say that she’s adding the class to the night…
And you know what, in this line up she probably is.
Is there such a thing as a typical Little Death Club show – is it exactly the same every night or do wild things happen?
Oh wild things happen, darling – you never really know what’s going to happen because the audience is different every night. I have a bit of a penchant for bearded men or guys in lumberjack shirts. But that’s why it’s such a fun show because the audience is just as important as the performers and it’s just like a big party where anything can happen.
And finally, have you performed in London much before?
Yes, well I lived in London for some time but I love it; it’s such a beautiful city. You guys love the filth. You’ve got to get through a layer of politeness first, but underneath there’s this bubbling, beautiful sense of humour and love of all things debauched, so I can’t wait.