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Sherlock Bones at Satan’s Circus

14 January 2016

My year in life modelling – 2015 – ended as it had begun: posing in group tableaux for Art Macabre. The unique Death Drawing salon specialists have enjoyed their busiest year yet with an ever-increasing, diverse range of theatrical offerings. Correspondingly, I’ve been blessed with many opportunities to pose:

January – A New Year’s Eve Masquerade Ball : Conway Hall, London
January – Mediæval Monsters : The Book Club, London
February – Eros and Death : The Freud Museum, London
April – Odette Toilette Aroma Ritual : Andaz Hotel, London
April – Commedia dell’arte, April Fools and Clowns : The Book Club, London
April – 50 Shades of Pathology : Barts Pathology Museum, London
May – The Dying Art : Round Chapel, Hackney, London
May – Library Fest : Woodley Library, Woodley, Berkshire
May – Watercolour Revolutionaries : Kingston, London
July – Shuffle Festival : Tower Hamlets, London
August – Drawing from the Unconscious : The Freud Museum, London
October – DeadFriday : Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
November – This Mortal Coil : Vivid Projects, Birmingham

My last booking of the year, on 16 December, was as Sherlock Bones. I didn’t get an immediate invite to take the event’s title role, however. This was partly because I look nothing like Benedict Cumberbatch, partly because I’d perhaps been over-used, but mostly because there are so many perfect alternative candidates within our modelling community. In the end, however, it seemed I was last man standing and got the nod.

First to be cast was Jon, who I’d posed with at my very first Art Macabre event; he would make a superb Watson. Joining him as The Abominable Bride would be the glorious Molly Beth White, who I’d worked with in April’s Commedia dell’arte. Art Macabre supremo director, Nikki, aka Raven Rouge, was narrator; her partner Linsay, the Baker’s Boy; and I completed the ensemble in vintage Basil Rathbone style.

The event was originally scheduled to take place at Barts Pathology Museum, and had even sold out in record time but, for reasons still unknown to me, the museum pulled the plug with just three days to go. A new location had to be found and all the tickets put back on sale. By some pre-Christmas miracle, Nikki pulled it off, and transported Sherlock Bones to Satan’s Circus at the Wenlock and Essex pub.

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The nature of the venue had changed substantially, and so had our artists – I peeked out and could see no-one I recognised. Art Macabre regulars were all absent; in their place it seemed we had attracted an audience of Sherlock Holmes fans. To put them at their ease I started my poses wearing a dressing gown, slippers and a deerstalker hat, plus briar pipe in hand – alas, no meerschaum.

For the first pose I was seated alone on a comfortable chair beside a table, gazing at a book as if lost in its words before bedtime. In the second pose I was still sitting but now having nodded forward, asleep, with the nightmarish vision of The Bride standing behind me, her hands gripping my shoulders. For now, we were playing our own mini period costume drama.

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The next scene was Linz’s cameo appearance, turning up in street urchin style to tell Sherlock that foul deeds were afoot. She froze in a moment of animated gesticulation whilst I stood motionless before her; impassive but attentive. After this it was time for Watson to make a smart entrance in jacket and pants. Meanwhile I was now wearing just a top hat and roughly fashioned cape. Costume was rapidly decreasing.

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In the last pose before our break, Sherlock and Watson ventured outside to scrutinise the evidence with their magnifying glasses – naturally having taken off all their clothes before doing so. Victorian respectability was maintained as I kept my top hat on, and Watson had donned his bowler. We hadn’t really focused our lenses on anything, but we stood together in great earnest.

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Our two poses after the interval saw The Abominable Bride take centre stage. For the first, she was seated as if upon a throne in the depths of an overgrown cemetery. For random embellishment, Sherlock and Watson sat like bookends at the corners of the stage. Originally from this point Nikki had imagined further narrative complexities, but in practice we were left with time for only one more pose.

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The final tableau saw The Bride standing, supporting a tower of three skulls with one arm while the other was raised and slightly outstretched, leading Sherlock Bones by the hand to some unspecified doom – whilst Watson grabbed one of his legs to haul him back. It was a 25-minute pose, and quite taxing for Molly, so a couple of times I let go of her hand so she could shake some life back into it.

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We were all done. The Sherlock Holmes fans were generous with their applause and eager in setting out their artworks on stage for our admiration. After-show drinks and laughs were shared before the time to depart inevitably came. After a bumper year of Art Macabre work, I’m expecting leaner times in 2016 as they search for fresh blood; whatever the future brings, I’ll look back on fun nights like this with great affection.

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© Art Macabre

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