Duckie (group)

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Duckie is a collective of performance artists that describes itself as “a post-gay independent arts outfit.”[1] They produce a mix of so-called "cultural interventions", such as club nights, new-mode pop, burlesque and performance events, as well as anti-theatre experimentation. They have described their work as "mixing the arthouse with the dosshouse"[2] and putting "highbrow performance in backstreet pubs and lowbrow performance in posh theatres".[3]

Supported by grants from the British Council and Arts Council England, Duckie is based in London but has played in Berlin, Germany, Greece and Tokyo as well as the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Blackpool Tower Ballroom and the Sydney Opera House. It continues to run cabaret and club nights every Saturday at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (also known by its abbreviation, the RVT) and counts an Olivier Award for its show C’est Barbican amongst its accolades.

Duckie’s work is characterised by its engagement with the queer lifestyle and community, showcasing queer performers and performance art at its weekly Saturday club night and providing “a creative forum for alternative gay and lesbian performance and culture”.[4] Other focusses include anti-class and anti-corporate ideals, including a rejection of corporate culture and gay commercial culture. This latter is highlighted in Duckie’s highly successful Gay Shame events, produced annually between 1996 and 2009 as an alternative to Gay Pride.

The company’s outlook is distinctly working-class, drawing influences in John McGrath,[5] the Victorian music hall, punk culture and illegitimate theatre.[6]


The collective dates back to a club night called Duckie that started in November 1995 in south London pub the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, created by producer Simon Casson – also known as “Simon Strange” – and compere Amy Lamé. They were joined by DJs Mark Wood and Mark Johnston - who called themselves The Readers Wifes [sic] - and box office artistes under the name of “Father Cloth and Jay Cloth”. Further members of the collective include Dicky Eton, Casson's co-producer, Mark Whitelaw and Robin Whitmore, director and designer for Duckie's larger shows respectively.

Burston indicates that at the start of Duckie’s tenure the RVT was somewhat in decline: “Lack of investment meant the venue remained dark during the week, only coming to life at the weekend with Duckie and … the Dame Edna Experience.”[7] Burston also records that the opening of the gay nightclub Crash promoted Vauxhall’s potential for hosting such ventures, leading an influx of mainstream clubs into the historic gay area.[8] The survival of Duckie, positioned in direct opposition to mainstream commercialised gay culture, highlights the effectiveness of their niche appeal.

Despite this, and the potential in new audiences attracted by the larger clubs, Duckie’s growth was again challenged in 1998 when Lambeth Council and property developer CLS Holdings attempted to flatten the RVT to make way for a supermarket complex.[9] Duckie was instrumental in defeating this threat: as Burston notes “The performance club Duckie, which had breathed new life into Saturday nights, mounted a vigorous press campaign, protesting outside Lambeth Town Hall and saving it from the bulldozers.”[10] In 2005, businessmen Paul Oxley and James Lindsay bought the RVT at public auction, bringing new investment to the venue[11] and providing Duckie’s Saturday nightclub with a secure location into the foreseeable future.

Performance events[edit]

In December 2002, Duckie’s Christmas show at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern created the format of sitting guests at tables and offering them the chance to order short acts, using "Duckie dollars", from a menu.[12] This was recreated at The Pit at the Barbican in December 2003 as C’est Barbican. It won four awards including an Olivier Award for best entertainment show and returned to the Barbican in 2004.[13][14] The show toured to the Sydney Opera House as well as Berlin, Thessaloniki, Birmingham and Manchester.[15] In December 2007, this show was recreated as C’est Duckie! at the CSV Cultural Center on the Lower East Side, New York City.[16]

In 2006, Duckie created The Class Club at The Pit, Barbican, a piece of event theatre that asked the audience to pre-select a social class for themselves, dress appropriately for the evening and then enjoy a meal and entertainment for their chosen grouping.[17]

Leading cabaret performers Chris Green and Ursula Martinez have worked as part of Duckie, and it has also attracted performers such as Dusty Limits, Janice Connolly, Scott Capurro, Kiki and Herb and George Chakravarthi.


As noted above, Duckie’s first theatrical venture was the creation of the Duckie clubnight at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, which has run weekly since its inception in 1995.

  • Gay Shame and Lesbian Weakness - an anti-Pride night that ran annually between 1996 and 2009. Notable themes included Euroshame (The Coronet, London, July 2006); Macho Shame (The Coronet, London, July 2008) and Girly Shame (O2 Academy, Brixton, July 2009).
  • Morrissey tribute night (Royal Vauxhall Tavern, 1997)
  • Miss Lesbian Beauty Contest (1997, 2000)
  • Julie Birchall tribute night (Royal Vauxhall Tavern, 1999)
  • The London History Promenade Performance Trilogy (1999 to 2001)
The productions in this trilogy took the form of walking tours with pop-up performances, hosted by Amy Lamé. Three periods of London history were visited: 18th century Vauxhall (The Vauxhall Pleasure Promenade - 1999), 19th century Brick Lane (Blowzabellas, Drabs, Mawks and Trugmoldies - 2001) and post-war Soho (Explosion!!! The Rock ‘N’ Roll Hosts of Soho - 2000).
  • – national tour with The Cholmondeleys and The Featherstonehaughs (Summer 2000)
  • Nightbird – season of queer theatrical events and installations (2000)
  • Kate Bush tribute night (Royal Vauxhall Tavern, 2001)
  • C’est Duckie! (Royal Vauxhall Tavern, Xmas 2002)
  • Nightbird 2 – season of queer theatrical events and installations (2002)
  • C’est Barbican! (Barbican, 2004) – Olivier Award Winner, Best Entertainment category
  • The Class Club (Barbican, Xmas 2006)
  • Buffont: A Promenade Performance for Pissheads (Soho Theatre, 2007)
  • London Vs. NYC (Studio B, New York, January 2008)
  • Liverpool is Burning - Grand Vogue Ball (Adelphi Ballroom, Liverpool, November 2008)
  • Duckie does De Trop – season of performance happenings (October 2008, Vauxhall area)
  • Queers and Old Dears – series of three “intergenerational … big nights out” [18] (Blackpool, 2008; Bexhill-on-Sea, 2009; Battersea, 2010; Wilton’s Music Hall, London, May 2012)
  • Token Black People (Royal Vauxhall Tavern, March 2009)
  • Duckie at Latitude (Latitude, July 2010)
  • Gross Indecency – A Pre-Lib Gay Lib Club (Camden Centre, July 2010)
  • Performance (Royal Vauxhall Tavern, August 2010)
  • Duckie’s 15th Birthday Party (Royal Festival Hall, September 2010)
  • Readers Wifes Fan Club (Royal Vauxhall Tavern, November 2010)
  • Duckie in Lille (Lille, December 2010)
  • Lullaby – The Sleepover Show (Barbican, June–July 2011)
  • Duckie at Latitude (Latitude, July 2011)
  • Duckie Best of British 16th Birthday Bash (Royal Festival Hall, August 2011)
  • DIY Xmas Gift Workshops (September 2011)
  • Duckie Christmas Market (Barbican Foyers, December 2011)
  • Copyright Christmas (Barbican, December 2011)
  • Duckie’s Christmas Party (Barbican, December 2011)


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  9. ^ Northmore, David. “Inn With A Sporting Chance?” The Pink Paper, 02nd October 1998. Available as a webpage at
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