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The Onion Club

"The Onion Club is a collaboration between singer and performance artist Pauline M. Hynd (alias Dubiety Brown) and pianist and composer Stephen Lee. The vehicle is Cabaret Noir, but there are no fish nets and spangles here, only stark emotion, black humour, wry observation and fierce truth expressed powerfully through outstanding performance and musicality, occasionally lightened by raucous moments of comedic surrealism. Prepare to be simultaneously shocked, moved, captivated and inspired by this unique outfit – part band, part theatrical experience, combining art with activism while delivering an exceptional quality of musicianship and performance that needs to be experienced live. Sassy. Sensual. Refreshingly original. Audaciously bold. Outrageously talented. Prepare to be transformed…. Submit…. Surrender… . Enjoy".

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The concept of The Onion Club came out of our first conversations and rehearsals together in 2012 when we began to explore the idea of using cabaret as a vehicle to bring together our disparate passions and proclivities, many of which seemed contradictory and on the surface, incompatible.

What did the genres of punk, classical, rock n roll, music hall,  avante garde, the chanson and the torch song have to do with each other? And yet the songs we were drawn to came from all these genres of music. What was the purpose of bringing in elements of theatre, poetry, comedy and burlesque into the mix? We didn’t know why we felt compelled to do so, but from the beginning the combination felt powerful, a vehicle through which any subject could be explored from religious hypocrisy to romantic love from sexual subcultures to the spoils of war.

Our commitment was, and is, always to the integrity of the music, the composition, the authentic emotion driving the performance and creating the connection with the audience. But we wanted to combine that with live art and theatricality, to create an unsettling effect, to disrupt expectations in order for something different to happen.

We wanted to provoke thought, but also evoke feeling. To use theatricality to create distance in order paradoxically to get closer to the audience, to make a human connection. We wanted to arouse people, through humour, through sadness, through the unexpected. To give ourselves fully to the performance in order that audiences could do so also.

The name of the band, The Onion Club, is taken from a chapter in the famous novel ‘The Tin Drum’ entitled The Onion Cellar. In post war Germany, so overwhelming is the collective grief felt by the population that there is a massive taboo against its expression and so it is largely suppressed. The Onion Cellar, a dingy underground music club  provides a safe space for people grieving to listen to music and enjoy a drink which is served with an onion and a knife. In cutting the onion, tears may be released, people can experience a catharsis.

We were captivated by the associations with an underground club movement as we developed work against an unfolding backdrop of relentless social, political and environmental horror. It felt as if we indeed as a society were losing our ability to feel. We wanted our ‘club’ to be a place where people might metaphorically ‘peel the onion’, so das wir fuhlen – so we can feel.

Several years on, and somewhat ravaged by life events which at times have derailed and dismantled us, it feels as if we are just starting to get to the core of the work we began in 2012. The need for lenses through which we can see with fresh eyes and for art forms which provoke us to think and feel, which wake us up, have never been so needed.

Our latest work, American Apocalypse Now is intended to capture something of the current historical moment and to invite you to respond, not just with your open minds and ears, but with your open hearts. We believe the politics of the heart are what will save us from this descent into social, environmental and moral degradation. Not a candy heart, or the heart shaped sentiment of performed empathy, not a heart bleeding with insincere pity, or a bitter heart closed against life like a fist, but a bloody beating human heart open and fierce with love, lust, grief and hope, full of music, a heart that can cry.




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“…it is not true that when the heart is full the eyes necessarily overflow, some people can never manage it, especially in our century, which in spite of all the suffering and sorrow will surely be known to posterity as the tearless century.

It was this drought, this tearlessness that brought those who could afford it to Schmuh’s Onion Cellar, where the host handed them a little cutting board – pig or fish – a pairing knife for eighty pfennigs, and for twelve marks an ordinary, field -, garden -, and kitchen – variety onion, and induced them to cut their onions smaller and smaller until the juice – what did the onion juice do? It did what the world and the sorrows of the world could not do: it brought forth a round, human tear. It made them cry.

At last they were able to cry again. To cry properly, without restraint, to cry like mad. The tears flowed and washed everything away. The rain came. The dew.”

Chapter 42, pg. 5
Günter Grass – The Tin Drum

Like a roadmap towards oblivion... Delivered with rare power and visceral beauty

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