I’d heard whispers of Rebel Bingo for several years now; when I was at uni, it was a hush-hush event that sold out pretty much straight away. Attendees had a misty-eyed gaze when asked about it and would remain curiously tight-lipped. But the event has stepped out of the shadows and into the light, from students to the general public. Hailed as their Edinburgh Fringe Warm Up Show, the raucous company put on a show at The Grand in Clapham.
The first rule of Rebel Bingo is that you don’t talk about Rebel Bingo. Ok that is not the rule, but the night had a fight-club, underground vibe, with staff wearing raised fist t-shirts and looking like they were off to fight some guerrilla war fare.
For Friday night’s shenanigans ahead of their Edinburgh Fringe stint, Rebel Bingo took over a grade-II-listed former Victorian music hall, The Grand. Clubbers, dressed in their going-out gear, huddled over the tables that occupied the dance floor and lined the beautifully regal stalls and boxes overlooking the old theatre space. Every corner was filled save for a small black stage and two podiums. Drinks on hand to get us going that night? Gnarly 'Russian Mules' on behalf of Russian Standard Vodka.
After about an hour and a half, the lights dimmed and two huge screens beamed out a video giving the club’s history, recounting their persecution at the hands of ‘traditional bingo players’ and their desire to bring bingo to the masses. A tall, blonde, good-looking man swaggered onto the stage, mic in hand and introduced himself as our leader for the evening. He beckoned forth two number-callers and two ball-pickers - a quartet so sexy and scantily clad that the halls of Mecca bingo would have suffered a spate of OAP heart attacks had they wandered in.
Fortunately this is not Mecca bingo, and the aim of the game doesn’t seem to be about winning at all. The razor-tongued number-callers recite lurid rhymes to announce digits, and those who dare holler bingo are invited up to the stage to either be shamed and booed for incorrectly totting up their numbers or to battle it out with a fellow winner for one of the prizes.
Admittedly the prizes are a bit naff - I'm not really after a stuffed panda or giant disco ball - but then you don’t come to Rebel Bingo to win big. You come to shout and jeer at your fellow players, to be sprayed with a glitter cannon and to be part of the bingo revolution.
Forget everything you know about bingo. Forget the image of your gran and her best mate, Doris, sitting in a clinical bingo hall on a Wednesday night. Rebel Bingo is sexy, it’s alcohol-fuelled and, most of all, it’s mad fun.