Torture Garden: No Pain, All Gain

Get exotic and erotic with Torture Garden's happening of burlesque beats and beautiful bodies.

Feature by Gareth K Vile | 05 Oct 2009

“Torture Garden has been running for 20 years and remains the only club of its kind. A multi-dimensional night led by the energy of the crowd, fuelled by the DJs, it caters for the open-minded - from the young fashionable clubber to alternative artsy types, from sophisticated burlesque fans to fetish club regulars. The Autumn Ball will be an environment that accepts and encourages individualism, diversity and freedom of self-expression.”

Itsy’s Collective has been providing alternative Edinburgh with cabaret nights and music festivals for the past year, promoting local talent alongside national superstars. In collaboration with the London-based, globe-trotting fetish night Torture Garden, they are taking over the Caves in Edinburgh for a night of hedonism, entertainment and music-led bacchanalia.

Dee from the Collective takes up the story. “The Caves is a unique space and the atmospheric caves and arches lend themselves well to a multi-roomed club.” With three main spaces, clubbers will be spoilt for choice. “The ballroom in the main cave will be defined by the heavy dance music alongside TG's trademark fetish freak show stage performance. The boudoir stage will have a cheekier and fun environment with a sideshow and cabaret feel. The Dungeon will have a more chilled out sound and is the place for fetish play and will also feature an art display from local artists.”

While Torture Garden’s identity is strongly defined by the fetish scene and the presence of performers who tread the line between burlesque and Live Art, the night’s ambience is determined by the music. Each space has its own DJs, with their own agenda. Allen TG – one of The Garden’s founders and a pioneering in VJ live mixing lays down hard left-field dance in the ballroom, partnered with David TG, artistic director and master of dark drum’n’bass and the experimental electronic mash-up and local dark ambient maestro Neil Fimbulvetr.

In the Kabarett Boudoir, Dee herself will be teaming with David TG to offer neo-swing, rock’n’roll, retro-treats and exotica, as well as a classical and ambient chill out set in the dungeon. While the emphasis across The Caves is on intensity and the alternative, the range of sounds makes Torture Garden the fetish equivalent of a weekend festival, contained in a single night. A set from Prime 8’s Kat rounds out the line up with his encyclopaedic knowledge of lo-fi indie and obscure pop.

More than just setting the scene, the DJs stamp their authority on the night. Torture Garden has been notorious on the London scene for its early adoption of harder styles, from hard house through to its current fascination with nu-skool breaks: the chill out spaces have always been an eclectic mix of anything from film soundtracks to Eastern and ritualistic loops. Linking back to the golden age of the 1990s, when the influence of Balearic beats dissolved genre and boundaries, it can be unpredictable and challenging, seeking out rare grooves and occult tracks.

The DJs reflect both Torture Garden’s core aesthetic and the Collective’s support for local artists. Dee notes that “we are keen to provide an outlet for counter culture arts in Scotland whether that be through music, performance art or the fine arts and TG certainly fits our remit.” Her enthusiasm is obvious. “We are honoured to be working with them and can't wait to unveil it to the Scottish audience. TG has toured the world recently with events in Tokyo, Paris, NYC and Toronto in addition to their regular event in London, we thought it was time to bring TG back to the Scottish capital.”

By placing performance within the club, Torture Garden puts the music into a broader artistic context, and well as creating a unique, immersive atmosphere. The acts represent a particular strand of burlesque, which goes beyond traditional glamour and striptease into more provocative territory.

The Scottish performers, in particular, are pushing the boundaries of cabaret’s expressiveness. Malady de Winter is well known for her anti-capitalist routine, a witty tale of socialist consciousness and work-place radicalism, and the captivating Cat Aclysmic can compress complex concepts into five minute bursts of romanticism or fire-fanning mayhem. Cherry Loco, a West Coast boylesquer, confuses gender certainties with a kitsch take on feminine accessories through a confident, enthusiastic masculinity.

Cherry is promising an act that is “a man-eating whirlwind of feathers, glitter, napalm and more than just a hint of raunchy indulgence.” Like Dee, he admits “I'm truly clawing at the walls in excitement. Torture Garden is in many ways a burlesque performer's - or any fantasist for that matter - dream.” “Though it is without doubt an adult-entertainment event,” he continues. “There's also an overall sense of play and make-believe which is just so fun and refreshing when it seems so few scenes really embrace or encourage individualism and self-expression.”

Dee agrees, and explains a little more. “Those who have never been to a Fetish club night can expect a night for the most open-minded individuals which is very welcoming. Due to the multi-dimensional layout, it is a night where you can pick your preferred arena, whether it be the hi-energy ballroom, the more laid back Kabarett stage, the fetish-led playroom or the market of fetish clothing or even just hang out at the bar checking out the high fashion of the crowd.”

Between the art-work, performance and DJs, Torture Garden is another example of a club that loves the music, but aims for a total, immersive experience. In place of superstar DJs or big-name live acts, there is a constant flow of experience and drama, shifting moods and attention-seeking events.

"Ultimately it is the crowd above all that generates the energy and atmosphere of any TG event," Dee concludes. "Given that the crowd is the most diverse, radically dressed and cutting edge crowd in the world-wide fetish and burlesque scenes, every event is something very special. As well as staging extreme artists and discovering future big names when they were unknown - Dita Von Tease made her UK performance debut at TG in 1999 - all the scenes biggest names appear regularly at TG. More than anything else Torture Garden is world renowned for its incredible theatrical performances and fashion shows."


9pm-3am, 24 Oct, £14/£12, The Caves