OBSESSIONS / Game for anything: A club in London's Soho is devoted to games of the sedentary variety. Emma Cook picks up the dice and acts board
Thursday 17 February 1994
The Soho venue provides an antidote to some of today's more insular leisure pursuits: video games, computerised chess and techno music. 'It's nice to get close to someone over Mike Reid's Pop Quiz rather than spend all night screaming in their ear at a night club,' says Furst. Players can choose from more than 60 old favourites. The club, now in its sixth week, was created by Furst, 'Figs' Jackman and Mike Leigh, who have also recently created a musical comedy, The Gary Glitter Story, expected to open in London's West End later this year.
The club itself is cramped but cosy, in a prime position overlooking Chinatown, with a hip decor of plants, plush red velvet seating and small, intimate tables. Furst stands in a velvet smoking jacket and oversized bow tie, welcoming new guests: predominantly fashion-conscious and under 30. 'Because it's in Soho, we seem to attract media-related people,' he says. 'We also get a few anoraks (train-spotters of the game-playing world). They tend to bring their own games and keep themselves to themselves.'
Most visitors willingly share their games, and Furst is happy to match up solitary guests. However, socialising is not a priority. Two women recently mistook the club for a singles bar and were disappointed not to be placed with an all-male group of Risk players.' There just weren't enough men that evening,' recalls Furst. 'The girls weren't very happy and left soon after.'
There may be few dating opportunities at the Double Six, but people are open and friendly. 'If you go there, he'll get you out in the next move,' warns my neighbour, leaning over to observe my bungled manoeuvres during a game of Contact 4.
The games are presented on a menu which reads like a wine list, marked according to degree of difficulty and duration. Titles on offer range from 'Classics' like Cluedo and Monopoly, to 'Back to Your Childhood': Kerplunk, Mousetrap and Operation. Although there are some new titles such as Environmania (an ecological version of Trivial Pursuit) and Chart Moves (how to dominate the Pop Charts) everything is board-based. 'We're not interested,' says Furst, 'in balding Heavy Metal fans playing Dungeons and Dragons for 24 hours at a time.'
Visitors seem well satisfied with the available diet. As the evening progresses, they become more animated and orders are shouted across the room to a waiter: 'An On the Buses and an Operation over here, please'. 'It's reliving your childhood,' says 28-year-old copywriter David Morgan, 'But it's nice to do it with a group of people who remember the same games as you.'
The Double Six's image is almost too good to be true: in Prohibition America it would have fronted a speakeasy. When it first opened, the police suspected illicit gambling. 'They stormed straight upstairs,' says Furst, 'And couldn't believe that at 3am people were innocently playing Kerplunk.'
Furst's plans for the future are suitably regressive. 'I'd like to have a room devoted entirely to physical party games like Twister,' he says, a prospect that may not appeal to everyone. 'Most of these games were bad enough the first time round,' says Howell Taylor, a disillusioned guest. 'You could have more fun watching an episode of Baywatch.'
The Double Six Club - every Tuesday, 7pm-3am, Wildes, 13 Gerrard St, London W1 (071 494 1060); admission pounds 4 ( pounds 3 concs).
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