Review: BOUND 8/04/2012

“You’re going to BOUND?” My interlocutor makes a face over his pint. “I dunno. Bruce is a stand-up guy, but I wouldn’t pay £15 for something like that where I have no idea what it’s like.”

He has a point. £15 is peanuts for the astronomically priced London fetish scene, but the event’s publicity hasn’t exactly been consistent, and no-one I’ve spoken to is really sure what it’s about. No-one knows whether to expect play, whether the dungeon of the Flying Dutchman will be open, or even what sort of performance is likely to be happening. But my friend S and I shrug our shoulders. We’ve never seen performance shibari before, we’re curious, and frankly, we’re hardly likely to see it for cheaper than £15, so we figure we’ll chance it.

We arrive some time after the proposed social between 8 and 10, but well in time to catch the first of the performances. I am amused to note that this takes a very similar form to an open mic night – people can ask to perform, and are called up to the stage by an MC when their turn arrives.

The few people who actually read this thing will know that rope is a relatively new thing on me. This being the case, I don’t really feel qualified to comment much on the actual rigging. Aside from one – a straightforward, traditional shibari display with no narrative to speak of, nor even a great deal of visible connection between the rigger and his bunny – the performances I saw all spoke to me a great deal. There was the raw brutality of Jackwhipper and Zahara, the fun playfulness of Will Hunt and Emily, the artful sadism of Hedwig and Aurelie, and the darkly stylish Jenis and Andy. A rigger friend was able to point out some of the flaws in the rope-work, but, novice that I am, the technical details all passed me by.

BOUND is a great place to see experienced and established rope couples strut their stuff. It’s also a really useful benchmark for aspiring riggers and rope performers. Peer rope events are great for learning new skills and socialising with other shibari enthusiasts, but it’s rare to have the opportunity to actually watch other riggers in action. In some ways, this is the most exciting thing about the event. I’ve found it inspiring, and will certainly work towards having one or two performances of my own worthy of the event. It’s also a great place to road test new ideas. I really hope that BOUND can become an established forum for this sort of work, and I think it has a great deal of potential.

Due to personal issues, I was forced to leave the event early. However, what I did see was well worth the ticket price. Regardless of the standard of rigging, performance shibari is a deeply moving thing to see, and the riggers and bunnies showed levels of creativity and affection for each other that astonished and delighted me. I’m very happy that there’s an event like this in London, now, and I sincerely hope that Esinem has the energy and resources to keep up the good work.

I have only a couple of gripes with the set-up. The first is the location. The Flying Dutchman is a great venue for an event like BOUND, with a stage and plenty of places to put suspension points. I’ve heard reasonably favourable reports of the dungeon areas, too, though I can’t comment on them myself. It is, however, in the middle of sodding nowhere – it’s at least 15 minutes’ walk from the nearest tube station, and whilst it is reasonably well served by buses, it’s not exactly the easiest place to find.

The second – and I hope my readers will indulge me on this point – was the music. Where the riggers had choreographed their work and brought their own music, this wasn’t a problem, but not everyone had put their scenes together with music in mind. From a distance, it was difficult to tell what exactly the set-up for playing music was, but it looked for all the world like one of the bar staff with a laptop and Grooveshark. Occasionally there would be gaps in the playlist, or songs that were inappropriate to the scene in question, and this was pretty jarring. I would quite like to see a proper DJ and/or a well thought out playlist at the next event.

The third – excusable, given that this was the first BOUND – was the flow between acts. I like the open mic-style conceit of the evening, but there were a couple of instances where the MC jumped the gun and started to announce the next act before the people on stage had finished. There was also a palpable lack of awareness as to how the technology works, with microphones feeding back all over the place. I’m sure this issue will iron itself out with further iterations, but it’s something that perhaps the organisers would like to bear in mind.

Overall though, I am glad I went, I’m sorry I couldn’t stay longer, and I’m rather looking forward to the next one.