Whoever thought that the moment you walked into the Genesis Cinema in London you would be transported from this world and into another, magical realm filled with log ladies, coffee shots, mountains of doughnuts and dark train cars filled with murderous spirits. It takes a very special show to make a team decide to bring together a festival like this and an extremely passionate and dedicated team of people to actually make it happen – Lindsey Bowden and her team of ‘Peakies’ brought to life the world of Twin Peaks in a way that sets the bar above and beyond other festivals and conventions.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Twin Peaks, the festival (running since 2010) was extended to a two day extravaganza (and there was probably enough material to have it run at least another two days after that as well!). Day One was based around celebrating Twin Peaks and all its mysteries – from watching selected episodes throughout the day on any of the brilliant screens at the Genesis (from the stunningly unique pilot, through to that spine tingling final episode), to meeting the guests of the festival (Al Strobel, Sherilyn Fenn & Mädchen E. Amick), watching a once in a lifetime performance of ‘The Murder of Laura Palmer’ in a purpose built train car behind the cinema from the extraordinary Double R Club and finishing the evening with a live set from another special guest, Julee Cruise, who wow’d audiences with a selection of her songs that became synonymous with Twin Peaks and everything David Lynch.
One of the reasons that the festival has grown so rapidly in such a short period of time is the amazing guests that come year after year, from Catherine Coulson (who was given a heartfelt and beautiful remembrance at the very start of the festival), Sheryl Lee, Dana Ashbrook and Kimmy Robertson to name a few. This year was of course no different, Strobel, Fenn, Amick (who was also joined by her talented daughter, Mina Tobias who also performed for the crowds as a support for Julee on the first night) and Cruise were all happy to be there with the fans, with the people that have kept the show alive for the past 25 years and hopefully continue to for a long time to come. They signed various bits of memorabilia, which left visitors of the festival revelling in happiness as photos opps were taken and conversations were had (although no spoilers!) about the upcoming third season (coming when David Lynch believes it is ready). But more than just being there, they socialised with the crowds, having a laugh and a drink and really getting to know the fans.
A special mention at this point must go to The Double R Club, a set of performers who are regulars on the London scene (they perform once a month at The Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club amongst others) and really did good. It is not possible for there to be a set of more talented, captivating, obsessed and magical performers. Their rendition of ‘The Murder of Laura Palmer’ hosted by Rose Thorne & Benjamin Louche, in the beautifully built train car near Glastonbury Grove behind the cinema was powerful, overwhelming and seriously caused the audience to ask to many questions about themselves and the others they were with. Coming out from the car at the end of the show left the heart pounding, speechless as were so many and ironically delighted that they were able to take part in the experience. A peculiar sense of catharsis (that reached the same levels as watching Fire Walk With Me on the big screen) allowed everyone (including the performers) to be transported to another place emotionally (for good or for bad). Their other performances that took place during the two days were also highlights from the festival; singing, poetry, dance, cabaret, fire swallowing and glass eating – they were out of the ordinary and so stunning, there is a reason why the audience were silent during everything they did.
The first night ended with a spellbinding performance from Julee Cruise… JULEE CRUISE! As she sang, she brought the first day to a close, she lulled the audience in a sweet lullaby (and surely we all would have happily stayed in the cinema all night listening to her and waiting patiently for the next day to start). She held the audience’s attention as if she was performing in a massive arena with thousands in the crowd and we celebrated her presence by making as much noise as we could.
Day Two was a celebration of everything that is Lynchian and the highlights included watching one of his absolute seminal pieces of work; Blue Velvet on the big screen. Never has Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini and Laura Dern been so perfect on screen and Dennis Hopper so terrifyingly scary! The film needs little introduction, as one of the most important films in cinema, it is a study into the undergrowth of Americana and suburbia. It’s antagonist, Frank is one of the scariest villains ever portrayed on film but Lynch broke so many more boundaries than just with this character. As far as psycho-sexual dramas go, this was the one that really started it all and knew what it was doing. During the day, a nod was also given to Jennifer Lynch (David’s daughter) and her importance to Twin Peaks (she did write The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer after all) with screenings of Boxing Helena and Chained.
But the highlight for most that day (and possibly of the weekend) was the Q&A, in a packed Screen One (people were filling every seat, sitting on the stairs and standing along the balcony), the wonderful Tom Huddleston hosted a Q&A that featured every guest from the weekend. Everyone filed in to a standing ovation and everyone walked off to a standing ovation, but what happened in between was pure magnetism between the cast and the audience. From Al Strobel reciting back the Fire Walk With Me chant, to Sherilyn talking about the reception to Boxing Helena, the cast describing how it felt to hear that Twin Peaks was coming back for another season and each telling their own stories about working with David Lynch and Mark Frost – there wasn’t a moment of silence. Question after question after question from the dedicated audience found us all on the edge of our seats. This was then followed by a big screening outing of the follow up to the TV series, Fire Walk With Me, which is a thrilling experience for those who have never done it. An incredible piece of art, a masterpiece if there ever was one, the film is not an easy one and it certainly brought together those sitting in the audience by the end.
I did learn something about Twin Peaks after the festival though, I wondered why 25 years later we are all still as obsessed and frightened and always wondering about the show and why new generations have been brought into. It’s a really simple answer though – it’s the magic. From all the people in their absolutely best costumes (from the Log Lady, BOB, Laura Palmer, Lil and even Lynch himself), to those who came wearing their jeans and a t-shirt, from the popular crowd to the outsiders, oblivious to sexuality, age, gender or faith – Twin Peaks is a show that allows the audience to transport itself somewhere else. It dares to uncover the darkest recesses of our minds, something that so few shows have even considered let alone achieve. It questions everything we know and everything we don’t know and it continues to live on in all of us.
The Twin Peaks UK Festival was a fabulous experience, unforgettable and beautiful for so many reasons. I just can’t wait until next year!