“I’m not just mincing around, there’s rancid meat behind my stories!”
I first became aware of Dandy Darkly in January this year. I was visiting New York to chair a panel discussion about bringing work to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in a small off Broadway theatre during Under the Radar, and he’d sent me a cheery email, full of questions and platitudes stating how much he was looking forward to the session.
Now I should get this straight. New York is always thrilling for me. Growing up in a small town in Scotland where nothing happens, the Big Apple has been tantalising me with her beauty and ambition ever since I was a little boy. Over the past few years I’ve been privileged to get to visit on a fairly regular basis; it is after all where you run away to as an aspiring artist now that circuses are deemed so unhygienic. As such, my day job takes me there often to chat with the shiny new, the aggressively jaded and everyone in-between.
This year was a good one though. I’m not sure if it was because we were at the tail end of a recession, if it was because the winter hadn’t fully hit yet, or indeed that everyone was feeling pretty good about themselves artistically against a backdrop of Scarlett Johanson making a monumental mess off Tennessee Williams just a few doors down, but people were happy. They were happy to be in New York. They were happy to be thinking about coming to Edinburgh and they were happy to be in the room.
No-one was happier than Neil Arthur James, the writer/performer responsible for the creation of Dandy Darkly. You could tell in an instant that Edinburgh was made for him, and he knew that too. Eager to learn everything he needed to know he grinned from ear to ear as his little idea to premier his work in the biggest arts festival in the world gradually became a tangible reality.
After the session, he sent me a message of Facebook inviting me out for a night with ‘the bears’, and immediately I was smitten.
Describing himself as “the bastard lovechild of Liberace and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark,” Dandy Darkly made his world debut at the 2013 Edinburgh Festival Fringe in DANDY DARKLY’S GORY HOLE! to rave reviews from the Fringe press.
“Richly macabre and pointedly satirical imaginative landscapes unlike anything else at the Fringe, or indeed elsewhere.” Four Stars! — Time Out London
“A shuddering, juddering climax of orgiastic transgression!” Four Stars! —Edinburgh Reporter
“Mesmerizing, enchanting yet terrifying.” Five Stars! FreshAir Radio UK
“Witty and deliciously dark… how ghost stories should be told.” A MUST SEE! The Stage
Halloween was meant for Dandy Darkly and this October, the critically acclaimed storyteller of supernatural sleaze brings his GORY HOLE home for a limited run of homosexual horror at the Celebration of Whimsy Theatre in Manhattan’s East Village.
In his show, Dandy Darkly slips between humour, smut and horror. His sexy-sleazy stories appeal not just to the gay community, but also to straight audiences and fans of horror. Dandy’s work is whimsical and message-driven. “I’m not just mincing around, there’s rancid meat behind my stories!”
To date critics have compared him to: Edgar Allan Poe, Sebastian Horsley, Paul Lynde, Deacon Brodie, the Brothers Grimm, Dr. Seuss, Anthony Burgess, Rip Taylor, Bruce la Bruce, Burke and Hare, Tennessee Williams, Charles Nelson Reilly and Vincent Price.
The show itself is a fifty five minute collection of original ghost stories, interspersed with audience asides. Tales are caustic and cautionary, including “A Case of the Vapors,” a story of hidden shame in the small (fictional) town of Gaybird, Georgia, and “Bearskinner!” about a portly gay lad who skins a bear and fashions himself a bearskin suit. And more. A rich, familial tradition of Southern folklore has shaped Dandy’s style since the age of six when his grandfather began sharing gruesome Georgia ghost stories.
The persona of Dandy Darkly is inspired by James’s interests in the occult, dandyism, pop culture, sex and growing up gay in the shadow of the AIDS “bogeyman.” He has performed across New York City, including Stonewall Inn, Dixon Place, and his monthly boylesque cabaret, the “Poppycock Peepshow”at The Slipper Room.
Twice his critically lauded variety shows have landed in the front of Time Out New York as “one of five things to do this week.” And in Provincetown, MA, he has shared his sexually charged ghost stories under the infamous Dick Dock – Dandy’s ongoing guerrilla performance arts series “taking back” spaces notorious for public gay sex as impromptu ghost storytelling sites.
I managed to see the show in a basement cabaret bar in Edinburgh this past August. As a gay man, it tickled me. As a human being, it kicked the shit out of me. If you are in New York and have the chance to see this…do it. You won’t regret it.
Dandy Darkly’s Gory Hole runs at the Celebration of Whimsy Theater (21 Clinton St. NYC) October 16th, 17th and 18th at 8:00 pm.Call (917) 972-9394