Diane Chorley @ Assembly, George Square

Diane Chorley's 80s nightclub experience is a nostalgic and empowering treat

Review by Rob Young | 23 Aug 2019
  • Diane Chorley @ Assembly, George Square

There are few venues that can totally transport you from the madness of the Fringe, but The Flick – an underground car park repackaged as a 1980s nightclub – is certainly one of them. Diane Chorley’s neon hub is laid out cabaret-style, with kitsch palm trees and glittery curtains evoking a more innocent time when people actually left their houses to be entertained. A mix of fantasy, tragedy and disco bangers, Modern Love is a sweet dream that will make you wanna dance with somebody. 

Chorley is a hypnotic storyteller, dressed like Whitney Houston – shoulder pads, perm – but with the warmth of Dot Cotton in her prime. Unlike many drag acts, Chorley is superbly pensive and quiet, often whispering her confessions as she serves mid-80s Thames estuary realness and holds her audience in the palm of her shellacked hands. Her tale is simple and engaging: a quest to buy Canvey Island’s working men’s club and turn it into The Flick, Essex’s answer to Studio 54, where Mick Jagger might rub shoulders with Michael Barrymore. There are laughs to be had in Chorley’s nostalgic references – an anecdote about Grace Jones and a flamethrower illustrates this – but the humour comes from the incongruity of Hollywood glamour in Canvey. This is, after all, a place where as a child, Chorley played games like ‘Catch The Spit’ and ‘Where Has Daddy Gone?’. 

There is pathos like this throughout, and pleasingly the songs are not merely used as comic fodder. Accompanied by largely wordless musician Milky, Chorley cherry-picks from disco/pop legends like Nile Rodgers, Cher and Elton to promote her decade-transcending ‘modern love’: a love of acceptance, but mainly a face-to-face love that encourages simple interactions with your fellow human. She decries mobile phones and televisions, encouraging us to talk to the people on our table and reminding us through song that ‘we are here’. Yes, we are here, we are entranced, and we are thoroughly entertained. Long live the Duchess of Canvey.

Diane Chorley: Modern LoveAssembly George Square Studios (The Flick at Underground), until 25 Aug, 8pm, £13-14