This review was originally written for the Londonist.
The name of the show alone is enticing and, coupled with the gorgeously gothic illustrations of our villainous hosts that adorn the show’s charming flyer, we were intrigued. Volupte is a place where you eat as you’re entertained, an underground supper club with attentive table service and a long cocktail list. As we sipped drinks and waited for the main action to begin, special guest Tom Baker, looking like he’d just been dug up or at least hadn’t slept for several weeks, made us beam with an invisible card trick.
The three protagonists, Mr Pustra, Joe Black and a third villain who will be different each night, all looked brilliant. Pustra and Black especially. They sported architectural shoulder pads and ballooning shorts, sequinned string vests and wild shocks of hair, bruisey make-up and sculptured cheek bones, long long lashes and poison red lips. Joe Black’s character looks and is cheeky and mischievous, while Mr Pustra has a distinct whiff of melancholy about him. To get an idea of the aesthetic, think of Tim Burton and Edgar Allan Poe.
The storyline is vague and hard to decipher, but the show exists well as a catalogue of song, dance and various exaggerated capers. If you watch simply for the sounds and shapes, rather than a strong narrative, you will have a good night. The characters move across the cramped stage space with aplomb. Mr Pustra has a glorious voice and we especially loved his Charleston moves. Baker’s accordion playing was a joy and Black’s wicked energy was infectious.
The show takes place as people are busy at supper, with waiters constantly on the move, which is a bit distracting. It’s hard to focus on a performance and a meal at the same time, especially when a waiter stands right in your line of vision. The performance area was small and the production in terms of set, lighting and sound wasn’t slick. But none of that really mattered. The engaging performers were suitably wicked and woeful, they made us smile, and it’s actually rather wonderful to be entertained by villains while indulging in good food and strong drinks.
‘Villains: We’re Very Concerned…Bad Things Will Happen’ plays on the 19, 20, 21 May at Volupte, 9 Norwich Street, EC4A 1EJ, www.volupte-lounge.com