Last Thursday saw the hotly-anticipated return of Club Fantastico, Steve Oram and Tom Meeten’s somewhat unhinged comedy night.
With guest appearances from Alice Lowe, Waen Shepherd, Alex Kirk and Rich Fulcher, The Velvet Onion was, naturally, on hand at The Vandella in Shepherds Bush to experience the madness.
Velveteer Mog reports…
Club Fantastico is a difficult beast to pin down. For a brief, fleeting moment at the start of the show, you’d be forgiven for thinking Oram and Meeten are a traditional comedy double act: two blokes (one with beard) in smart grey suits, matey banter with a northern twang – it’s there.
Then, slowly at first, strange things start to happen, as if a LSD-spiked dream is gradually revealing itself on stage. Oram’s hilarious, heaving hatred of The Manic Street Preachers seems to be the catalyst, swiftly followed the techno aggression of Sean the Prawn (menacing as hell in a salmon-pink mac). It’s at this point you realise it’s going to be a very silly night indeed.
The acts come thick and fast, each one fractionally more bizzarre than the one that precedes it: A 1940’s wartime lesbian wrestling singalong with the fantastically talented Alice Lowe; then Waen Shepherd who’s painted up like one of the weirder characters from Blue Velvet, singing ear-boggling songs like “Saucy Little Infant” , that are as clever and funny as they are inappropriate.
This is followed by a foul-mouthed, sarcastic baby with a vibrator, played a little too convincingly (for someone about to become a parent!) by Rich Fulcher.
“I have no moral compass, I’m a baby!” he hollers at the front few rows. A throwback to his Jackal Films cameo, thanks to his performance I will never think about my nether regions in quite the same way again. Cheers, Rich.
This procession of oddness is punctuated by pitch-perfect deadpan conversations with Oram and Meeten’s beyond-mundane friend “John” (Alex Kirk) from the back of the room. While apparently throwaway, these help to reset vibe in the venue for the next performance.
The show ends with the infamous Club Fantastico Beauty Contest: a close-run showdown between a horny feral German (Lowe), a defecating Geisha (Sean, formerly of ‘prawn’ fame) and Blake Lively (Waen Shepherd). Gloriously silly stuff!
This was an evening with the potential to exclude the audience with its strangeness. However the oddness of the acts was beautifully balanced by Oram and Meeten’s between-act stage presence, which leant the evening a joyful energy and charm that carried the audience along in a warm embrace.
The dynamic between the two performers is perfectly pitched, each one taking their turn in the spotlight, while the other provides a supportive comedic harmony. So we get to admire Meeten’s deranged Irish singer, silenced only by the bag on his head, and of course the divine Mary, Oram’s sublime alter-ego with bad teeth and a red dress. Each in turn, and also together. Tonight, the evening is Oram and Meeten’s.
Club Fantastico offers a thoroughly modern take on Vaudeville theatre, managing to strike the tricky balance between chaos and watchability. From the crowd’s noisy reaction to the performances it’s clear that it’s a club with a lot of support. When that the crowd includes the likes of of Julian Barratt, Dan Clark, Simon Farnaby & Arnab Chanda, as it did last week, that’s not to be sniffed at.
Club Fantastico returns to The Vandella next month. For more info as soon as we get it, stay peeled.