The best new alternative night out: Die Freche Muse
Austerity getting you down? You'll find a dose of Weimar-style escapism at London's latest cabaret party, where the vintage dress-up scene gets an east London house party twist
At a time when the creaking of tightening belts can be heard all the way from Acton to Aldgate, an important, wonderfully escapist alternative night has come to our attention. It channels another hotspot of economic uncertainty - 1920s Berlin - with emphasis on its unbridled hedonism. So, when everything else looks a tad bleak, it seems apt that we should make like they did in those dank and depraved Kabaretts and party our hinternen off.
Die Freche Muse has been running for the past three years, though only those in the know would have heard about it at the start. In true speakeasy style, it took place in opulent Dalston home - a wood-panelled lair of antiques and peeling wallpaper - of a friend of the organiser. Just 80 people were lucky enough to attend.
The party only went public - tentatively, and on these very listings pages - last year. But its popularity has since escalated, despite the assumption that 1920s Berlin has been done to death in clubland. Of course it has, but Die Freche Muse offers something different: it is intimate and casually sophisticated, more Marchesa Luisa Casati's sumptuous boudoir than Sally Bowles's glitzy cabaret stage.
It has become so popular, in fact, that Die Freche Muse's party repertoire now includes an events agency, as well as their regular night, split between opulent members' club Adam Street, off the Strand, and The George Tavern on Commercial Road with its 300-year-old theatre space.
At the heart of Die Freche Muse are Tim Sanderson, who plays the party's host, Baron von Sanderson, and his partner Rebecca Sweeting, a vintage stylist who cuts a striking Louise Brooks dash. They met at one of Sanderson's early events and have run them together ever since. It's not strictly a cabaret club, not in the traditional sit-down sense, anyway: each event is different according to its venue and is peppered with pop-up performances. Their next party,The Impudent Muse at Adam Street Club on Saturday, will feature Brechtian vignettes from Theatre Lab, Josephine Baker-esque dance shows and live jazz.
Sweeting fondly remembers her first time at Die Freche Muse: 'It was an utterly magical event. Women dressed beautifully and creatively, and it was held in an atmospheric venue that was full of surprises. It's a laidback and friendly event - and a chance to wear something you possibly couldn't wear anywhere else. It's a place where you can dress up as much or wear as little as you want to and still feel comfortable.'
Sanderson is similarly style-conscious. He owns vintage boutique This Shop Rocks on Brick Lane and started the Dalston Vintage Fair at the Old Boys Club behind Gillett Square. But while glittering threads fuel Die Freche Muse's glamorous atmosphere, the party is, they insist, in no way snobby.
'It's different from other vintage events that can be 1940s paint-by-numbers,' says Sweeting, 'but, at the same time, the dresscode isn't fancy dress. It's about dressing up in the spirit of things within your own style.' Sanderson: 'My club reacts against the nights that people go to just to look at each other and inspect what kind of vintage suit they are wearing. Those type of clubs take themselves a bit too seriously.'
Similarly, Sanderson tries to avoid the club tourists. It's why, he says, he keeps the Die Freche Muse's venue as cosy as he can and offsets his larger events at Adam Street, for 450 people, with smaller, more secretive affairs. In particular it's why he has dodged the attention of glossy fashion magazines and weekend supplements thus far.
He's right to try and safeguard his parties. Bacchanalian ball The Last Tuesday Society is a prime example of a club that started off as original and intimate but has, after six years, become formulaic. The Candlelight Club, meanwhile, is taking other precautions: rather than move to a larger venue, they run back-to-back parties every month, at their original location to satisfy the demand.
Die Freche Muse, however, is not an elitist, toffee-nosed affair. Instead, its house party atmosphere is what gives it an air of exclusivity. And, at the same time, it welcomes a real range of people who are keen to explore an alternative era, ushered in by the camp stallion of a door host, Shiny Sean.
It's a formula that Die Freche Muse will use to experiment with other bohemian eras too. Sanderson and Sweeting's first party of this sort, at Adam Street Club last November, had an Andy Warhol's Factory theme and their March event will be based around Nick Roeg's cult 1970 gangster film 'Performance' starring a young Mick Jagger.
Both reiterate the true soul of Die Freche Muse: 'I think it will really allow the audience or guests to be able to run with their imagination,' says Sanderson. And run away with them we will.
The Impudent Muse is at Adam Street Club on Sat Jan 21, at The George Tavern on Sat Feb 11 for a Valentine's special and at Adam Street Club on Sat Mar 24 for a 'Performance' edition. The Candelight Club is every month at a secret location in central London and is next on Fri Jan 20 and Sat Jan 21.