Bacchanalia gets decadent dandies hot under the collar.
Listen here: the Last +Tuesday Society is not a Doomsday fraternity neither is it a celebration of what happened the week before. No. Instead it is a “pataphysical organization founded by William James at Harvard in the 1870s. It is devoted to exploring and furthering the esoteric, literary and artistic aspects of life in London and beyond.” So now you know.
A huge part of that devotion is the society’s event parties, September’s being a masked ball which was held in the luxurious underground vaults of The Adam Street Members’ Club, a Georgian townhouse just off The Strand.
The guests are a decadently costumed crowd, mostly young and beautiful, friendly and ready for some fun. This pursuit is hampered at the start by the brusque and rude attitude of the highly unamused door staff barring the guests’ way at the entrance. Once past the front door, however, the gathered crowd are delighted to enter another world.
Low-ceilinged, inter-linked Georgian chambers form a series of opulent rooms for guests to play in. A Bacchanalia theme links the contrasting spaces together, as guests lounge langorously on candle-lit chaises decorated with fruit and floral displays. There’s even a darkened kink room for those who wish to indulge in a little extra fun, complete with caged human curiosities, whipping post and bondage chairs. For those interested in beasts of a different kind, Tim Maynard’s Travelling Menagerie is a kind of gothic petting zoo for grown-ups, with the chance to make friends with some real-life creepy crawlies.
Mingling amongst the beautiful people, naked male hosts offer sweetmeats (well, mini doughnuts and chocolate brownies actually). Some wear body paint, others are au naturel save for a cock ring and ornamental foliage. A huge chocolate fountain with tempting fruity treats is a hit with guests and naked hosts alike; look out for that hot melted chocolate though, it dribbles everywhere.
Be-wigged, masked and costumed in Restoration finery in the area called the “Ballroom of Desire”, Cavalier DJ Trolyus Searle has the crowd waltzing and twirling across the floor to the fine sounds of Tchaikovsky and Beethoven. There are more than a few “air conductors” flourishing their imaginary batons enthusiastically to the beat when Searle drops the classical music dance floor favourite, Prokofiev’s The Montagues and The Capulets (from the ballet Romeo and Juliet). Dance lessons held earlier on in the basement give guests extra panache as they try out their new moves together.
Cabaret acts include the inventively talented Ceilidh Liberation Front, a radical and theatrical ceilidh band on the non-traditional side of traditional folk dance, and the crowd very much enjoying getting their folk on with them. For the more erudite, there are a variety of lectures including a “how-to” guide to being a dandy from Rose Callahan and Nathaniel Adams while a varied range of musical styles from swing and bebop to Whitney Houston can be heard on the dance floors into the early hours.
The underground tunnels are packed close with sweaty bodies, queues for the bar are very long and the temperature is pretty hot, in every sense. Smokers popping out to the street for a ciggie are quickly joined by large groups of non-smokers desperate for a gasp of fresh, cool air before heading back down into the steam, but it all adds to the atmosphere of this clever and entertaining evening. The invitations did say “clothing optional” after all…
The Last Tuesday Society’s September Masked Ball. Produced by The Last Tuesday Society. 9 Adam St, London WC2N 6AA.