IMPERIUM at the Kazimier
On Friday 3rd October 2008 Cunard's longest-serving liner, Queen Elizabeth 2, sailed from Liverpool - the city where she was designed forty years ago. This was a farewell visit as part of her final voyage, ending in her conversion to a floating hotel. She departed to the accompaniment of military band and fireworks, but your world- weary correspondent did not stay to watch. Turning my back on our morbid present, I left behind me the windswept river with its views of the ship and sought instead the more torrid atmosphere of the future: IMPERIUM at the Kazimier (see www.myspace.com/thekazimier.)
This fourth evening of the Kazimier's themed revels was peopled by a range of unlikely visions. Top hats mingled with feather fascinators; inventors' goggles flashed reflections of steampunk contraptions; moustachioed ladies (the future holds a convention of them, it seems) rubbed shoulders with incarnations of innovators past. The throng was illuminated by two brilliant lamps in the centre of the hexagonal floor. These flared at intervals when, under instruction from a sherry-sipping mariner and latter-day Tesla, men and women of disparate times and fashions powered an electrical velocipede.
Musical performances punctuated the evening, beginning with an unlikely but successful quartet comprising accordion, oboe, 'cello and Gaelic harp. A mixture of klezmer and other exotic melodies set the scene, but boundaries and genres were to be stretched throughout. The quartet was followed by a set of wittily earthy ditties ranging in theme from Victorian drainage to George Formby. By now, the crowd had swelled and was calling for more; we were treated to Blackpool Rock (www.georgeformby.co.uk/lyrics/b.htm#rock) and other songs.
When these acts gave way to orchestral waltzes played on the gramophone, your correspondent wandered the stairways and balconies of the Kazimier, perusing the visual displays. There were cabinets of curiosities, a giant kaleidoscope, and curious contraptions of all sorts. Through a porthole lurked infinite reflections of a mannequin, its face and body lit with forms both living and mechanical. Familiar, yet always altered by symmetry and context, these pictures animated the robot against a background inspired by the biological illustrator Ernst Haeckel. As I stood fascinated, the inventor of this object appeared. A vision of past and future combined, the magician (www.myspace.com/howard_be_thy_name) in his black silks and goggles hinted at the dark cinematic secrets of his craft.
The climax came after midnight, when the Futurescope was revealed. Part dream, part masque, this performance matched any expectations set by the preceding Kazimier. A screen flickered with images of speed before being raised to reveal a smiling white lady, a baroque May queen under a powdered wig. Attended by a white-clad Adam and Eve, her raised dress revealed a pair of, ahem, doors, which creaked open to deliver dancing twins. A synthesised rendition of Shostakovich's Jazz Suite waltz No. 2, with its descending minor theme (www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSaYnQD7EpY), added an obsessively maniacal quality to the scene. The pale futureling twins descended white stairs to waltz as the music grew in volume. A final round of explosions and streamers heralded yet another live musical act, this time of moog and percussion, and the dancers were joined by the crowd.
The inventiveness of the Kazimier is remarkable. Fertile minds have clearly met in the planning of these events; the results make for a refreshing night-time revel quite unlike any other.
An Account of an Evening spent in Mediæval Squalor and Mischievous Devilry by Hildebrand Staggers
Intrigued by the above poster and racked with ennui by the dreary uniformity of the Liverpool night-life, your correspondent decided to risk his salvation and pop along to a sinister-looking event at an unheard-of address and hurl himself into a maelstrom of Mediæval horseplay last Friday, 11th July.
The building, a dark hexagonal pit with numerous staircases, enveloped my senses as numerous ragged showmen hawked their diversions ahead, above and to either side of me.
I was taken aback by all this dizzying activity and approached the beautiful lady operating the cloakroom to surrender my cane and hat whilst gathering my thoughts. Burning curiosity drew me across the straw-strewn bear pit and I found a bar. It being a mediæval shindig, it wasn't the sort of place where a bar-cove made an extravagant five-minute fuss over mixing one a martini, there were various tins of lager and cider available, and spirits.
Before, dear reader, you dismiss this fare, it was eminently suited to the wanderings among the cackling, demented and unwashed rabble within; at every point there was temptation and distraction: a hooded and dissolute monk fondled a hovering, glowing sphere, a wretched alchemist operated a torpedo-like iron engine that recorded the twisted, tortured countenances of the gurning competition and repeatedly projected these hellish images onto the wall, a bountiful wench urged me to try her coconuts, whilst others goaded me into taking up the heavy mallet to belabour a rat as it left a drain-pipe.
I was blissfully happy in this tumult of noise, activity and hilarity; I eagerly purchased a jute bag of the special beans that were the currency of the fair. A rag-tag fellow blindfolded me so I might stick the "cock and balls" upon what must rank as the most Satanic rendition of a donkey I have ever seen. I attached the unfortunate ass's marriage prospects rather too high so failed to win a prize.
From a lofty platform up in the roof, some ragged-looking fellows with violins, a double-bass and a banjo splendidly rendered old blues songs from the New World that pleased the aficionados present, whilst beneath them, an enchanting sorceress in a most diverting outfit gave Mediæval haircuts to those with four beans to spare.
Alas I was then taken by The Plague and I was too weak to push for a view of the jousting in the pit, but I saw enough from the periphery to see why the howling crowd were in such high spirits as death was defied by the participants.
There was then an enormous assembly of trumpeters upon the stage, no doubt to sound the last trump so I cowered in the yard where tobacco was smoked profusely.
I cannot recommend this evening highly enough. It was the complete antidote to the mainstream, unimaginative, rubbishy clubs with no comfortable furniture, apathetic staff and only expensive drunkenness to make them bearable.
It was indeed poetic that this event took place in what used to be the Club Continental, the nightclub for footballers, meatheads and other knuckle-draggers in the nineteen-seventies and eighties.
Keep your eyes peeled for the next event at The Kazimier, it was a treat beyond comparison and all for £5 (and £1 for the bag of beans)
Let us hope there are more such evenings as these to come!
The Kazimier, Wolstenholme Square, Liverpool L1 4JJ