House of Kittens’ latest creation The Amatory Asylum is a show that describes itself as “Passionate about embracing the essence of the sensual pageantries of bygone times and presenting them in a new authentic voice” Through her personal performance experience as an international showgirl along with her deep passion for costume design, cabaret, and erotic storytelling Sophie Cohen founded House of Kittens in 2012 to bring all her creative artistry into one arena. Here Sophie tells us a bit more about the creation, both from an artistic and feminist perspective
How did the concept of House of Kittens come about?
I’ve held an interest in performance art since I was a child and often wrangled my friends into being in my plays. But as I grew up my fascination with all things erotic developed and I had a lightbulb moment when seeing the crazy horse Paris for my 30th birthday – in that moment I knew erotic performance was absolutely a valid form of theatre and art.
What made you want to move from straight erotic performance towards more theatrical, story-led work?
It happened naturally through a combination of things. First, I started thinking about our opening show Rapture and who those characters might be. I have always had a love of vintage medical utensils & costumes; then we layered our beliefs on feminism, which is that women can choose to be sexual, naked, while still being very much in control and empowered. So, the Amatory Asylum was born!
There will always be people out there who seem to find it impossible to believe/understand that a woman choosing to perform in an erotic setting is indeed liberated and empowered – House of Kittens appears to be a the forefront of continuing to challenge those pretty old fashioned conceptions – this is especially notable by the fact that your audience is generally made up of more women than men – how important has that been in the development and creation of your work?
I would start by saying that our show is not for everyone, and that’s ok. We are an all-female troop, from diverse backgrounds (financial, geographic, sexual, and racially) and we are all very much involved in the creation of our shows. So, if we feel empowered by it, we are. Personally, I feel that people who object are missing the point and their views often come from their own uncomfortable feelings around sexuality which they are fully entitled to. We very much come from a female led perspective and narrative and we are always striving for women to leave our shows feeling sexy and confident. Team Kitten is 100% in support of the sisterhood.
You always manage to find quite stunning locations for your parties, but with quite different aesthetic vibes – do the spaces inform your work, or does the work arrive fully formed, no matter what space it needs to fit into?
Amatory Asylum was pushed forward in a modern direction due to The Wellington being a much more modern space than previous shows, but we can make most things work anywhere.
In the past we had the pleasure of producing our shows at The Kings Head Members Club which was like an Aladdin’s cave of odd furniture, Taxidermy, and antiques. Amatory Asylum was pushed forward in a modern direction due to The Wellington being a much more modern space. Upstairs the walls have been spray painted on directly by Damian Hurst and hanging over the bar is another Hurst piece (a disco ball skull) keeping a watchful eye on the festivities. All these touches have really helped us keep in tune with our institutional theme. But we can make most things work anywhere and are always up for showcasing the venues we partner with in the best possible way.
You’re performing in the show, as well as having created it. How does it feel to perform your own work, and what effect does it have on the performer-director dynamic?
It can be really difficult at times. In my producer role I base my success on financial gains whereas a director and performer it should just be about the merit of your work. So, it can be tricky separating those mindsets. As a company we are incredibly close which is wonderfully supportive and makes the tricky bits much easier.
Finally – What’s coming up next for you after this?
Sleep and spending some quality time with my partner & dog. We do have a few other things in the pipeline, but I like to keep some surprises back.
Amatory Asylum is the first event to be hosted in the beautiful setting of the newly reopened Wellington Members Club on Jermyn Street – tickets from www.houseofkittens.co.uk