The Nabokov Arts Club: Fable – a two-night one-off event held at the Battersea Arts Club – had all the ingredients for a weird and wonderful evening for those tiring of the standard pub, bar, club routine. Its theme was fables, fairytales and fantasy; there was music, dance, art and theatre; one could recline on a variety of beds with a Gin and Tonic.
The Battersea Arts Centre is beautiful. Mosaics, cornices and an Imperial staircase greet you at entry and teamed with all the damsels donning flapper dresses and other curious costumes, I felt just as if I had wandered into a party from the Roaring Twenties. Dancing on the bar, down the stairs and between the pillars gave it a brilliantly ad-hoc feel, especially against a backdrop of punters in plaid shirts clutching beer bottles.
The foyer had the buzz, chaos and comings and goings of a summertime festival – good or bad depending on who you are. Unfortunately, it lacked the friendliness and good vibrations of a summertime festival. The BAC’s size made the event feel small – while somehow managing to remaining extremely draughty – and special with plenty of nooks and crannies to house the many performers and performances of the night.
Every half hour a new act would begin in three different rooms, repeated several times throughout the night, meaning one wouldn’t miss anything. Arthur Darvill retold the story of Cinderella in pantomime fashion, to much laughter. As someone who loathes most musical theatre, this Cinderella – drunk in-da-club and turning back into a chav at midnight – only got a few perfunctory smiles from me.
Fitzgerald provided some lovely spoken word to electric guitar and singing, about a Miss Knight – teacher responsible for all the boy’s first boners. The Flying Dutchman managed to dazzle the crowd with his pop-up story in which not very much happened. He deserves credit for his enthusiasm and for his stunning mini-stages through which the action happened.
Besides entertainment of many possible shapes and forms, there was face painting, biscuit decorating and the opportunity to have an appointment with a Fable writer, who would weave you a tale of your very own. At least three locations were present to keep minds and perceptions suitably boozed up, albeit with a rather rudimentary selection of poisons.
The Nightlife with a Difference concept is something that the Shunt Vaults managed to pull off successfully on a weekly basis in the tunnels under London Bridge, until they sadly had to close their doors “due to engineering works” at the station. The Nabokov Arts Club made a valiant attempt at creating a night to remember, but ends up becoming something that was less than the sum of its parts.