MW’s annual fancy dress birthday party is held in July on the Indonesian island of Batam (this year’s bash was last Saturday). All guests are whisked over from Singapore via a privately chartered ferry, journey time of just under an hour, and put up in the family’s hotel at Turi Beach. Sounds good so far? It is, unless you make the fatal error of misinterpreting the theme of the party…
First off, let me explain that these are parties like no other. Waitresses and dancing girls are models shipped in from Jakarta and costumes are serious – think ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ in terms of making an effort to disguise yourself: people really do stay in character until the bitter end – and if you get it wrong, you are punished. Publicly.
Three years ago, when we were mere beginners, the theme was Star Wars. I took a loose interpretation of it being a space oriented bash and thought minimal effort would most probably be safer than a full on sweaty spacesuit as I’d probably be the only one dressed up (I wore a 60’s style black and white mini dress with a huge silver, sparkly headpiece).
Oh, what an underestimation. Mike does not mess about. He had imported real white Star Wars solider suits that were worn by staff and there was no holding back being done by any of the guests either: they had played this game before.
I soon became acquainted with the concept of the much feared ‘pit’ (black hole that guests who are hauled up on stage to defend their choice of costume effort may or may not end up in) and only narrowly avoided it due to calling on my 10 year friendship with RW (pictured above in black), MW’s brother.
They weren’t so kind to the BBC newsreader who mistook Star Wars for Star Trek and arrived as Spock. When she failed to defend herself successfully, she was unceremoniously thrown through a trap door on stage and had to crawl through a long dark tunnel before rejoining the party. Surprisingly enough, she now religiously double checks her invitation and always, always looks fabulous and very much ‘in theme’.
Last year it was Clash of the Titans with a Medusa temple stage set built on rocks within the hotel’s extensive grounds. But no mucking around on the costume front, this time I researched my options properly. I could hire something or, for the same price as a trip to Costume Costume, I could actually buy something from the States or the UK. So a rubberized, synthetic snakeskin costume it was…I went as Medusa; the fear of The Pit long since forgotten and instead I watched with the bloodthirsty anticipation of a Roman with a good seat at the Coliseum, as people got hauled up on stage (‘Caesar Mike’ below right).
Last Saturday the theme was Superheroes and Villains. H went as Superman on the turn, which I think was really quite a stroke of genius: suit trousers and a tight superman T-shirt half hidden under a white shirt, unbuttoned to the waist. Non-lensed black rimmed Clark Kent glasses were the finishing touch (all bought courtesy of El Rastro street market in Madrid). I thought that Lois Lane was therefore a logical and fairly safe option for me. I even have a 50’s style tight white dress in my cupboard which I thought was pure Lois when I bought it, without the intention of ever wearing it to fancy dress.
Wrong again. The night before the party I re-read my invitation. Yup it definitely said ‘Superheroes and Villains’. But now that I was really focusing on the fact that it was happening tomorrow – gasp as penny dropped – Lois Lane really is neither. Sure, she may wield more power than Superman because she’s the one who inspires him, but I’m f***ed if I’m going up on stage to explain that to 400 people.
So, to save myself not just from public humiliation but mud, slime and whatever else is down there, I decided to raise my game. But who can I dress up as at a moments notice?
Luckily my BFF is MW’s sister (not in anyway to be defined as such, she is uber cool in her own right and godmother to my child) who I have to give full credit to for saving me with her suggestion of going as Poison Ivy. ‘Poison who?’ may have been my panicked, last-minute response but all I can say is Google images and Far East Plaza level 3, I love you.
Red wig cut in to an amazing, shiny, slanty bob, check; $20 green dress which is superhero short at the front and knee skimmingly longer at the back, check; green matching fishnet tights, sorry stockings (say tights and no one in FEP understands what you mean), check. The finishing touch of a twisted green plastic ivy-ish (sort of) mask and all was under control with less than 12 hours to spare. The result, I am pleased to report, was no pit. Not even a whiff of it (for me anyway, the bound and gagged people pictured below weren’t quite so lucky).
MW came as a very convincing Tony Stark (I couldn’t resist telling him that in terms of job title, i.e. millionaire playboy, I wasn’t sure that he hadn’t just come as himself). He had quite a serious costume change later on for the floorshow where he appeared in a full on Iron Man suit and even managed a few flying stunts before being surrounded by clutch of pole dancers (what are pole dancers called when en masse?).
The studio had been constructed as an imposing and atmospheric Sin City, where anything goes and dark corners are plentiful. Actors mingled with guests and were suddenly arrested at their tables, the heads of perpetrators banged loudly on the floor and one poor chap was even set alight. ‘Prostitutes’ in fishnet stockings (damn my choice of legwear this year) circled guests as they climbed the stairs to the tables and beggars and old men shouted and screamed in the ‘street’. There was a live band after dinner followed by properly good music that made even the most achingly shod feet feel no pain.
Here are some shots of this year’s best costumes:
Tony Stark image (very top) courtesy of Screenrant