Torture Garden x Bourne & Hollingsworth – The Dark Circus Party

Please note: This event and its constituent founders are for over 18’s only. Please bear in mind this piece is not appropriate for younger viewers.


‘Welcome to La Belle Epoque!!’ screamed Joe Black, our wonderfully over-made-up compere-cum-guide for the evening’s revelry. We were a good hour or so into the evening, had already seen at least one staggering display of burlesque/pole dancing skill from the beautiful Sasha Flexy and most people were also well into their cups. His question ‘Are you having fun?’ seemed more or less rhetorical, but was met with hearty approval.


We were, once again, in the bowels of the Bloomsbury Ballroom for a different twist on a night’s entertainment. This time Bourne & Hollingsworth and Torture Garden had teamed up to provide an evening themed around the circus, with a twist. The prevalence of corsets, latex, heavy make-up and the scantily clad should give you an idea of the sort of evening ahead.


Within minutes of stepping into the building we had been greeted by a bizarrely costumed cow/ballerina/mime-type act and beckoned through and into the throng of fantastically costumed guests. Everyone, as ever with these events, had made an amazing amount of effort with their costumes, ranging from those wearing next to nothing (nipple tassels were definitely the order of the evening) right through to those bedecked in full riding regalia, complete with fly whip and riding crop. Ensuring a brilliantly immersive experience on the visual front.

The main ballroom throbbed to a mix of electro-swing, rock stalwarts and the more abstract (a mashed-up version of Minnie the Moocher anyone?) and left no doubt to the eclectic tastes of the crowd and satisfied the aural dimension. The smiles plastered on the faces of more or less all the guests, the only exceptions being those who had momentarily paused to stare in disbelief at the various acts in the cages scattered about the place, told me that we were not the only guests in ecstasy at the pure hedonism and thrill of it all.

The infrequent, short, but astonishing stageshows, from the likes of Banbury Cross’s (Marilyn Monroe eat your heart out!) almost aggressive burlesque to the breath-taking display of strength and contortion by Iona ensured that the evening did not slip into monotony. Combined with the little jolts, to keep us all fresh and paying attention, from Joe Black, performing the likes of You Are My Sunshine – ‘not quite as your grandmother might have sung it’ – provided some sense of perspective and perhaps relief from what might otherwise have been too much for some.


As far as I could see, the only nod to the circus really was the aerial display from Andromeda Circus, who took to the ring and net suspended the middle of the dance floor to put on an astonishing show for us, but really it didn’t matter. The whole evening leant itself to the same carnival-esque atmosphere of the circus and the twist didn’t even need to be implied. It was all around us and wonderful at that.

La Belle Epoque are on Facebook and online. Their next event is on the 31st May and tickets are now available!


Reporter: Peter Churchill

Victoria House, Bloomsbury Square, London WC1B 4DA




Bourne and Hollingsworth Basement, 28 Rathbone Pl, London W1T 1JF




The Torture Garden