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You probably already know what you’re doing for Christmas, don’t you? Most of us have a routine that we follow – you can call it a ‘tradition’ if you wish, but it’s just a routine: parents in the morning; outlaws for dinner; home for a box-set in the evening; reversed on a yearly basis (you can’t beat a Sopranos box-set on Christmas morning). But what about Christmas’s boisterous relation – New Year? What have you got planned for that?
Most of us probably don’t think about New Year until the turkey carcass is in the bin and even then the options tend to be little more than a choice between the pub or a mate’s house (or Jools Holland’s dismally faux Hogmanay frolics). Maybe it’s just the distortion of time and memory but the allure of New Year seems to have dwindled; it’s status as a reflective milestone in our lives replaced by the flaccid pyrotechnics of a party-popper and a re-enactment of the climax of Shaun of the Dead. Is New Year now just the final piss-up of the Christmas holidays? It seems so, and I cannot help but feel underwhelmed by that.
Thankfully it appears that some people share my desire for New Year to be marked by more than just a hangover, but rather than just moan about it, they have actually done something about it. The Guilty Party will take place at Norwich Arts Centre on the 29th, 30th and 31st of December and for those three nights the Arts Centre will be transformed into a sleazy, down-town night-club; a speakeasy dive, the likes of which was common (although probably not in Norwich) in the 1920s and 30s. The catacombs of the Norwich Arts Centre will sparkle from nave to transept with period décor, drapery and slightly suspect glamour. Even if you’re familiar with the Arts Centre the makeover which Hocus Pocus Theatre have planned promises to disorientate and entrance. There will be access to secret rooms, intimate encounters with themed sets and the opportunity to succumb to sweet temptation.
But this isn’t just a themed club-night. What Hocus Pocus and their coterie of conspirators (No Strings Burlesque & Cabaret and Boogaloo) have planned is an immersive and surreal living-comedy which will both entertain and provoke. This is a theatrical production but one which those who attend will shape and help create. We’re promised meetings with the club’s sleazy proprietor and his menagerie of performers who’ll spin tales of power, corruption and deceit in a world where crooks are commonplace and innocent by-standers turn to crime in the blink of an eye. There’ll also be cabaret and circus-style performance from Gossamer Thread’s Vaudeville Co.’s Daisy Black and Alex McAleer (Curious Cabaret, Greatest Show on Earth).
The whole scheme has a wonderful underground, decadent feel to it and this ambience will be propelled by a live band and DJ Jazzlord, who will be spinning the finest selection of vintage rarities until the early hours. I am, as yet, unfamiliar with the work of DJ Jazzlord but I’m envisaging a butch version of the Fast Show’s Louis Balfour. Whatever the manifestation I’m sure Leon Maclean’s creation will be nice. And for those who need a break from the intimate encounters, decadence and deceit (oh, I wish!), there’ll be a secret cinema on site, doubtless showing some appropriate celluloid fayre.
Attendees are encouraged to dress for the occasion, interpreting in their own way the themes of prohibition era uninhibited speakeasies, underworld glamour and daring decadence. Intriguingly opening times are staggered at 8pm and 8.30pm, with why and just when you should arrive apparently being revealed when you book!
Ticket prices and timings for the performances are as follows: Thursday 29th December – Preview, (ends at midnight) £15 / Concs: £12.50; Friday 30th December – Cocktail Night (1am), £20 / Concs: £17.50; Saturday 31st December – New Years Eve Special (2am), £25 / Concs: £22.50. You are strongly advised to pre-book as ticket prices will be higher on the door. Considering the entrance fees for pubs and clubs on New Year’s Eve, £25 for entertainment and decadence until 2 in the morning looks like decent value to me.
That’s it for Stagestruck for this year but whatever you’re up to over the next month, enjoy it and remember not to over-boil your sprouts. Merry Christmas.