The Basement played host last night to Dr Sketchy presenting Dr Caligari’s Surgical Spectacular, which on the face of it is not a night out one would immediately jump at the chance to attend. Their events however are described as including ‘naughty nurses, dirty doctors and burlesque performances.’ Dr Sketchy, as the name would suggest, also involves drawing… a lot of it.
They are described on their website as an anti-art school made up of art school drop-outs, and as being a combination of art classes and Moulin Rouge. The intrigue forced me to attend and experience something I had likely never experienced before.
Upon entering the cosy venue, the crowd of around 50 made up of a Hen night, gothic types, Emos, and groups of friends were already hard at work with their pencil and paper sketching an achingly beautiful, scantily clad performer on the stage, dressed in the sort of medical gear one might buy from a well-known adult high street chain. The audience had five minutes to sketch the model, until he or she changes pose and the process is repeated.
My initial reluctance was counteracted by the enthusiasm shown by the rest of the crowd, and no sooner had I started myself, than another agent-provocateur was introduced onto the stage covered in fake blood, echoing something from the horror-game Silent Hill. Rewards were abound at the end of the set as two of the performers on stage performed a tasteful and provocative near-full strip which was received equally well, if not more so, by the women in the audience.
Interspersing the drawing were Bush and McCluskey, the self styled writers, composers and comedians who took to the stage with their guitars and let fly a folly of their hilarious and satirical acoustic tracks. Keeping the theme of the night alive they started off with their Zombie Love Song and then onto the Regional Rap where the impressive duo rapped in accents as diverse as Yorkshire, Jamaican and Hertfordshire. With the crowd now laughing along heartily and offering their enthusiastic applause as appreciation, the two mischievous men continued an observational acoustic song about the pitfalls of being a woman.
The set was finished with their cheekiest song yet, which suggested they might want to ‘see David Cameron next Tuesday’ which was rapturously applauded and cheered by the crowd. Bravely they then invited the audience to shout out random words that they would incorporate into a song by the end of the night. What they would do with a selection of words like Pikachu, Stevie (the hen night girl), Obama, blue hair and Rock and Roll the crowd wondered.
Starting off the second half of the show, the budding artists in the crowd were treated to another seducing burlesque performance by another of the performers before another drawing session commenced culminating in a ten minute Charlie’s Angels-style group pose and the offer of a prize for the best artist.
Once the prize was given, to a piece of artwork significantly above average and suggestive of the type of people that may enjoy such an event, Bush and McCluskey returned to perform their ad-hoc song, impressing the audience once more with their quick wit and ability to manufacture a coherent and amusing song in less than an hour, having created an interesting link between Pikachu and how one may select from an assortment of bubblegum.
Overall the event was like no other that I had experienced, and the curious link between comedy, burlesque and art worked really well. The horror theme added to the general atmosphere and the costumes were well presented, though lower lighting may have added to the occasion further. It was definitely a fun and alternative way to spend a Friday evening and worth the unique chance to have a few drinks, be creative and get entertained at the same time.
My only criticism as a non-artist would be that the drawing sessions maybe dragged on a little too long and by the end a significant part of the crowd seemed to have lost interest. The main highlight for me however was ultimately the interludes provided by Bush and McCluskey who I would highly recommend seeing, and whom will be a surprise should they not become increasingly popular on the alternative circuit.