With Vampire Nightclub 1983, Writer-Actress Audrey Valcourt distills the ’80s vampire experience into a heartfelt coming out story whose impact transcends its brevity.
Vampire Nightclub 1983 is a poem, much in the same way that H.P. Lovecraft declared Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death” to be a poem in spite of its prose form. Whereas Lovecraft was referring to visual imagery and aural cadence, we are thinking more of the condensed nature of poetry, in which much is said with few words, evoking in mere sentences what another writer might take pages of even whole chapters to convey. In this one-woman show’s brief but mesmerizing twenty-five minutes, writer-actress Audrey Valcourt distills essential elements to perfection, like a master alchemist achieving the refined purity of a Philospher’s Stone – more dense and potent than many larger works.
“I’ve been a sucker since ’63,” the play’s lovely vampire announces by way of introduction after dancing onto the stage. Not only does the sentence belie her 20-something appearance; her word choice foreshadows Valcourt’s depiction of vampirism as a stand-in for queer club culture of the 1980s, particularly of the Goth variety (Bauhaus’s “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” is only the most famous of the timely tunes that will be heard). As she relates her story, we learn that our vampire-narrator lived her early years convincing herself to fit the traditional mold expected of her, even agreeing to marry a young man. Then, suddenly, the hunger hit; she pawned the wedding ring, fled to the anonymity of New York City, and buried herself in an apartment, venturing out only to obtain the raw meat whose bloody juice sustained her new life.
The prospect of this self-imposed solitary alienation extending into eternity (she found suicide impossible – even traditional methods of destroying vampires were useless) came to an end only when a trip to the butcher shop led to meeting another female vampire, who drew her out of her apartment and out of her shell, introducing her to the local club scene. There she meets others of her kind, along with young Goths willing and eager to donate their blood to real-life vampires (blood-drinking is entirely voluntary, never predatory, in this story). Still able to get a buzz from alcohol, but immune to hangovers, she now contemplates a future filled with fun, friendship, and eternal good times – until, inexplicably, one of her vampire friends falls ill….
A summary of the short tale hardly does Vampire Nightclub 1983 justice. The play functions largely as a showcase for Valcourt, who bedazzles the audience much as Louis de Pointe du Lac entranced the interviewer in Anne Rice’s debut novel. She achieves the sort of intimate performer-audience connection more associated with interactive productions, creating something that feels like immersive theatre even though it is a simple one-person show on an almost bare stage.
The vampirism element certainly helps cast her spell, creating an idealized rendering of vibrant night life undimmed by drug overdoses, alcoholic blackouts, physical dissolution, or vehicular death by misadventure. It’s as if the youthful illusion of immortality has been made real…until “Decay’s effacing fingers” unexpectedly reach out to prove themselves capable of sweeping life and beauty away even from previously invulnerable vampires.
The metaphor of a gay community stricken by AIDS is so overt it barely qualifies as subtext. In Vampire Nightculb 1983, vampires are born, not bitten. They have always felt out of step with traditional roles, and finally at a certain age they realize who and what they truly are; happiness comes from rejecting their own ingrained self-loathing to embrace their new identities.
This depiction lends a vital, uplifting energy to the story, which all too effectively sets up the turn toward tragedy. Even this, however, adds to the heartfelt beauty of the tale, reminding us of Shelley’s words, “Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.” Vampire Nightclub 1983 is a sad, sweet song swelling to a note of grief that lingers long after the lights go up, poignant and painful in the best way possible.
Vampire Nightclub 1983
1 – Avoid
2 – Not all bad
3 – Recommended
4 – Highly Recommended
5 – Must See
This must-see one-woman show (extolling the joys of vampire nightlife in the 1980s) condenses a remarkable sense of lived experience into a very short running time. It is a sort of coming out story in which embracing one’s true self offers the opportunity for eternal joy, or at least that is how it seems…
Written and Performed by Audrey Valcourt.
Vampire Nightclub 1983 continues at Hollywood Fringe Fest with performances on June 16 at 9pm, June 18 at 11am and June 24 at 6pm. The venue is The Broadwater (Studio Stage) at 1078 Lillian Way in Hollywood. Get more information here.