Hot, wet, wild, and occasionally spattered with salsa—Olivier award–winning London performance artists Duckie have brought their risqué cabaret to New York. C’est Duckie! uses tinsel, velvet, and spotlights to transform the shabby Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center into a glitzy (if still rather shabby) nightclub. Once seated, the patrons at each 10-person table receive $40 (in Duckie dollars) to spend on entertainment. (In England, participants received $50 in Duckie dollars but, considering the execrable state of the dollar, we ought to exult at getting any money at all.) They also receive a menu listing the available performances, such as “Art Class,” “James Bond in Perverted Pussy,” and “Be Insulted,” each with an attached price. The table must collectively decide—amid much giggling and champagne swilling—how to squander their funds.
My table had expensive tastes. One couple insisted upon the $10 “Natcho Snatcho”; another chose the $10 “Barbicancan”; and everyone wanted the similarly pricey “Miss High Leg Kick Does Seven Cocks.” (In the first, a woman balances a bowl of salsa in her crotch; the second features the same woman doing a four-legged can-can, the other two legs emerging from a merkin; the third is porno balloon twisting.) After an introductory number that delightfully redefines “table dancing,” the four members of Duckie and one guest artist make their way from group to group, performing the agreed upon items. Some titillate, some irritate, some amuse. Some, like “Be Insulted,” never arrive. Our ordering choices resulted in lots of time spent with Miss High Leg Kick. Miss Kick also provided our dessert course, entitled “Emotional Striptease,” in which she gamely answered questions on a pre-selected topic. Our table chose “I’m a Good Girl, Really” and barraged the poor woman with queries about her sex life.
Duckie, who describe themselves as “Post-Poofter Purveyors of Progressive Working Class Entertainment,” intend their show to follow less in the tradition of neo-burlesque and more in that of conceptual art. The two-hour evening, with its emphasis on money and costs, intends to send up commercialism. Sometimes the scheme works well—as when producer Simon Casson, in a disturbingly effective lampoon of a sleazy Englishman, attempts to sell the table shop-soiled merchandise. At other times it seems either forgotten or ineffective. The piece might have more punch if it didn’t so often lag, the five performers spread among 10 tables. On the night I attended, C’est Duckie received a complication when, at the close of the performance, two excitable audience members stood on top of the table, dancing, stripping, and gesturing naughtily with champagne bottles, all for free. Girls gone wild—how can a satire of materialism compete?