nabokov Arts Club

*Originally written for Exeunt*

At your average club, you’re lucky enough to get a choice of which room to dance in, let alone which art form you want to watch. At any one time at nabovok Arts Club, however, there are plenty of decisions to make about which activity you’d like to undergo, from short plays to spoken word to twenty-first century ska. It’s like theatrical bricolage, coming together to create a mad, dizzy night which lights up the Waterloo Vaults in a way only an arty club night in central London can.

The various rooms at the Vaults have been taken over by a variety of acts. Here’s Luke Barnes’ touching and terrifyingly honest new play about twenty-something love. There’s an emerging spoken word artist ruminating on growing up in the modern world. In that room is a number of stumbling students gossiping about last week’s antics to the sound of electronica.

Throughout the evening, there’s music emanating from the main bar, covering everything from 40s swing to dubstep, which seeps through the walls whilst we watch other acts to create an air of instability and recklessness. To kick us off, Disraeli and Downlow perform a fast-paced, energetic set which is tiring even to watch, let alone dance to, laced with classic riffs and gorgeously chosen samples. The evening ends with an explosive funk, dub and ska set from King Porter Stomp, which gets you as lively as you’re likely to be at three in the morning and left me with a bittersweet feeling that I haven’t and never will see enough live ska acts in my life.

The main event, however, is a trio of plays by Ella Hickson, Tom Wells and Nick Payne, ordinarily known as Symphony but here presented in fragments, so we can watch one, head for a beer, then watch the other. They each contemplate adulthood, ambition, love, and hope in their own separate ways, and are all set to stomping, riotous music played by the actors. Though they largely take the form of monologues or duologues, the way in which other performers and characters are introduced keeps them alive, allowing them to slot in perfectly to the mood of the night. Granted, they aren’t the most in-depth or revelatory of pieces, but in the context of the evening they work as tonics to the dancing and shouting, allowing us to be momentarily transported to a world outside of our own whilst also managing to blur the lines between theatre and gig in a way which few other shows have managed.

Though the multitude of events which take place during nabokov Arts Club are diverse in both form and content, a general theme emerges of struggling to find an identity as adulthood beckons, coming through loud and clear in both the more traditional ‘theatre’ and the music in equal measure. The evening itself, however, holds within it the possible solution to this issue, placing us in dark dingy tunnels with hundreds of other people, all collectively singing, dancing and laughing. Unlike the lonely isolation you can experience in other clubs, here you feel well and truly a part of something.


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