“Very rarely are we going to have a night that’s ordinary,” admits Paul, the tall, well-dressed, well-built man managing the floor on this Wednesday night. Standing at the top of a staircase, taking in a surreal opium den-meets-Blade Runner bar below him as an equally surreal post-apocalyptic movie shows on a sheer projector screen, Paul heaves a sigh. “Every night will be different,” he says, finally.
This is Sing Sing Theater. Sort of hidden out in the open, tucked between Quince and Casa Pagoda on the sedate Sukhumvit 45, the collaboration of Ashley Sutton and Sanya Souvanna Phouma mashes together the disparate influences of the old Shanghai underworld and the dark and alien future. It’s new—so new you can still smell the lacquer on the hard wood floor, still feel the heat on the faces of the laser-cut dragon motifs, still marvel at the incongruous King Kong and UFOs appearing onstage—yet refurbished, the red light, Chinese fretwork, and lanterns hanging from the ceilings a snapshot of decades past. And it’s easily the most spectacular nightclub to open in Bangkok in recent years.
The nearly symmetrical space of sunken bars and spiral staircases relies on ever-evolving nightly shows to tie the individual threads together. Entertainment Manager Xuan Xu, a young former business consultant born in China but raised in Germany, spends her days recruiting locals with unusual talents—a lithe Thai man who performs a fusion of tap and belly dance, two professional female martial artists who pepper their routine with voguing—and her nights in the dark recesses of Sing Sing, steering her freshmen toward perfection. Soon she will unveil a talent show of the bizarre called Face the Gong, inviting comparisons to the wildest amateur productions in popular media.
On this Wednesday, entertainment commences with the brooding, futuristic, Space Odyssey-like film. In step with its action plays a soundtrack of haunting, Trent Reznor-ian strings. But then the bill flips. Two dancers descend upon the wooden stage that splits either side of the ground floor of the club. One wears white make-up, black lipstick, and black devil’s horns, the other a blond afro wig and gasmask. A DJ—Justin Mills—clambers to the decks, which sit behind the now lifted movie screen. The dancers start slowly. Moving from chaise longue to staircase, they take high measured steps, jerking their shoulders left and right, dropping to the floor, glaring into the eyes of spectators at the tables below like creatures lifted from a Nicolas Winding Refn movie and resettled in real Bangkok.
As the music transitions, skipping from Mark Morrison to the Beatles to House, Paul broaches the topic of the creative forces who have designed this monster of a club. “If you ever sit in on a creative meeting with Ash and Sanya, it’s like ‘The Matrix,’” he says with a moment’s hesitation. “They like to take two opposite things, smash them together, and then see what they can do with the fallout.”
Similar to other Sutton and Sanya ventures, such as the burlesque Maggie Choo’s, the experience is designed to be seamless and exclusive. And so they enlisted the help of top mixologists Joseph Boroski and Nath Arj-Nan to design drinks. Signature cocktails (B310-380; add B100 to swap Tangueray for Iron Balls Gin), with names like Aztec Lady and Dove Pan, are served inside a metal birdcage. Lurking behind hanging leather strips, past a wall of false lockets, lies a smoking lounge with industrial vents. Next to the lounge, a semi-secret passageway leads backstage. Actors in this veritable variety show, which will change each month, are signed to Sing Sing alone. In other words, you’ll only see them here, and that includes the China doll muses who welcome guests at the door.
Not entirely a club, nor exactly a bar in the truest sense, Sing Sing Theater transcends the limitations of our nightlife vocabulary. It is, as Paul posits, a monster.
Sing Sing Theater
Sukhumvit 45 | 09 7285 6888 | facebook.com/singsingtheater | Tue-Sun 8pm-2am