By Jen McGregor
According to its brochure entry, Boom Boom Club is a “three-room immersive extravaganza”. The poster promises an opulent, decadent treat. If only it had lived up to any of these promises.
Instead, we found ourselves shepherded into the distinctively unatmospheric Belly Laugh, where a woman in clown make-up and stockings appeared to be masturbating furiously before a raucous audience that was paying her little attention. Eventually she was replaced by Piff the Magic Dragon on compere duty. As entertaining as his cynicism and conjuring were, he was a strange choice to host at an event that seemed to want to appeal to the spooky crowd. Even stranger were the man doing impressions that would have looked tired some time in the 80s and a supposed flamenco dancer offering to perform a traditional dance based on having loose bowels.
In the hope that there was more to Boom Boom Club than this barrel-scraping cut-price Best of the Fest, I chose this moment to go in search of the other rooms. Don’t rely on either venue staff or performers to encourage you to explore – just brave the comedians getting stroppy with you for leaving and go.
Through in White Belly, a club night was in full swing. It’s a pretty ordinary club-in-a-vault, not unlike many others you’ll find in Edinburgh. There are appearances by Kitty Bang Bang and other burlesque performers, but it’s pretty standard stuff. Like many burlesque routines, those on offer here are not particularly well-structured. There’s little sense of an act building to a climax, instead it’s just a quick delivery – clothes removed, fire swallowed, contortions done – and then repetition of the same trick until the end of the song. There’s no tease.
Out in the corridor a couple of the smaller vaults were being used by Late Night Shop. There was a fleeting moment of interest when a skull-faced ghoul began dancing behind bars, undermined by her emerging and settling down to chat with a big-haired lady with gaffa over her nipples. Another vault offered couples the chance to marry in the Church of Reverse, which seemed to be mostly a chance to grope each other in public and giggle at the suggestion of kinky practices to come. It probably seems pretty wild if you’re very drunk and/or away from home for the first time. Apart from these, there’s little else to do in the lengthy gaps between acts in White Belly or while you’re waiting for the unimpressive line-up in Belly Laugh to loop back to the start.
Boom Boom Club desperately wants to be an orgiastic bacchanal, but with this line-up it’s more like going through the motions in missionary. Best to turn over and hope no-one notices that you’ve dozed off, or else seek your thrills elsewhere.