Review: Friday Night Filth, Underbelly Festival

Now this is a rarity: a variety night with stand-up comics as a regular part of the bill. And that’s comics plural as regular Underbelly Festival event Friday Night Filth takes not one but two comedians away from their usual microphone stands and puts them in a tent alongside some fine cabaret stars.

I don’t have anything against individual stand-up comics per se but too many these days are pushing out tired and mentally undemanding material. From the lazy crowd control (“give me a roar if you’ve breathed in and out today!”, “is anyone in the audience from the town I’m in right now?”, “who here likes chocolate?” etc etc) to the painfully obvious observations (“everyone in Edinburgh sounds like someone out of Trainspotting!”) and the tedious tales (“today I went down to the Post Office and they tried to sell me some stamps – the cheeky bastards! What’s that all about, eh?” etc etc), their success seems to rely more on their personality and how pissed the punters are than actual talent or material.

The stand-ups on opening night (Chris Betts and Bobby Mair) are not the finest examples of their genre but, appearing as they do quite a few hours after gin o’clock, they give a presumably well-lubed audience a few chuckles and not much else.

Host Dusty Limits is happily still alive and kicking having been around the London cabaret circuit since Jesus was in shorts. The Australian’s vocal talent is phenomenal, apparently reaching three-and-a-half octaves at full stretch, and he still knows how to expertly work a crowd with equal parts insouciance and charm.

His banter, though, has become stale and has barely changed since he ruled the Café de Paris all those years ago; even if he was laid flat on a pub table with drinks placed on him, in this respect he wouldn’t be more of a coaster. Thankfully, his voice is still as fine as it ever was and his neo-Weimarean shtick remains lively and funny. Well, funnier than Messrs Betts and Mair.

The Ruby Darlings are the fast-rising up-and-comers of the musical comedy scene. Anyone who says that women are in any way inferior to men when it comes to comedy should be strapped to a seat and made to watch Lily Phillips as, with the backing of pianist and co-vocalist David Tims, she pounds out hilarious, provocative and unashamedly feminist anthems about self-pleasuring, pubic hair and anal sex. Those who remember and enjoyed vintage EastEnd Cabaret will love what they hear here.

Rounding off the bill is the thinking woman’s burlesque dancer, Lolo Brow. Renowned for her award-winning Lizard act, her recent routines have focused on gaslighting and gender identity. For this night, however, she returned to an older award-winning act, a delightfully debauched take on the ultimate kitchen saucepot Nigella Lawson.

For filthseekers everywhere looking for the way to shed the work week and move casually into the weekend proper, this night is the perfect way to do so.

Friday Night Filth comes back to the Underbelly Festival on 2 June and runs until 30 June with new line-ups every time. Check out the Underbelly Festival website for more details.

Dusty Limits returns to the London Underbelly with his show Mandrogyny on 20 September.

The Ruby Darlings have a regular residency at Moors Bar. See their Facebook page for more information.

Lolo Brow will be part of House Of Burlesque 2.0 at Underbelly Festival and also hosts LADS, an all-female burlesque/cabaret night at Her Upstairs.

More information on all Underbelly Festival shows can be found here.

Soho Estates Change Their Mind: New Madame Jojo’s Will Be “Something Very Different”


Soho Estates have announced that, when the scaffolding around the Madame Jojo’s venue eventually comes down next year, there will be “something very different”.

John James, MD of Soho Estates and Paul Raymond’s son-in-law, exclusively filled us in on the details. “Look, I’ll be honest. When we originally shuttered the place in 2015, we were secretly hoping to turn the whole block into something the area was crying out for: swanky apartments privately sold in roubles or riyads, another hummus restaurant, a sex offender community centre disguised as a sex toy emporium and a cashpoint that charged you either an arm or a leg to take your own money out.”

James has had second thoughts, though. “We brought in a firm of analysts to look at the area and right away they saw a hole in the market. It was staring us in the face the whole time yet we couldn’t see the wood for the trees. Sometimes it takes highly paid consultants with zero in the way of sartorial imagination to point out the bleeding obvious.”

The report by R. Soles favoured a commercial opportunity which had emerged over the last few years and which Soho Estates is keen to capitalise on. James continued, “the consultants pointed out that a number of LGBT venues had closed down and we all know the gays love a singsong and a bit of the old cross-dressing. There are so few places around now that the poor fellows are now resorting to using phone apps like Grindr to find love and companionship.

“Thankfully, so many of our local competitors are going to the wall that, when we get round to finally opening Jojo’s as a cabaret nightclub, it will be something of a novelty in Soho. And where better than a venue which used to have great variety, drag and burlesque nights before it became an expensive and dark drinking den with occasional stage entertainment.”

The new Madame Jojo’s is scheduled to open in 2018.

Who Are The UK’s Top 20 Burlesque Performers?

Industry website 21st Century Burlesque has revealed the results of its latest annual opinion poll sponsored by Sublime Boudoir and announced the top 50 burlesque performers in the world as voted for by their peers and members of the public.

While the final results reflect the site’s largely American readership, extra lists have been produced which reflect how the international artistes fared in their own country. As identified by the site, below are the top twenty  performers from or based in the UK.

1. Betsy Rose (global #12, last year UK #8, above)

2. Vicky Butterfly (global #14, last year UK #2)

3. Velma Von Bon Bon (global #24, last year UK #9)

4. Reuben Kaye (global #32, last year UK #10)

5. Rubyyy Jones (global #35, last year UK #4)

6. Kitty Bang Bang (global # 40, last year UK #3)

7. Lolo Brow (global #42, last year UK #13)

8. Lou Safire (global #43, last year UK #7)

9. Havana Hurricane (global #46, last year UK #5)

10. Cece Sinclair (last year UK #14)

11. Bettsie Bon Bon (last year UK #19)

12. Polly Rae (last year UK #6)

13. Lady Wildflower (last year UK #15)

14. Lilly Snatchdragon (last year UK #11)

15. Felicity Furore (N/A)

16. Aurora Galore (last year UK #1)

17. Tom Harlow (N/A)

18. Eliza DeLite (last year UK #16)

19. Amber Topaz (N/A)

20. Raven Noir (N/A)

Congratulations to Betsy Rose, one-third of the Gin House Burlesque troupe alongside Missy Fatale and Jolie Papillon. Ranking twelfth overall in the 2016 global rankings, she takes over the UK top spot from Aurora Galore who has fallen to #16; the latter may have been affected by her online meltdown to our review of her show Glamorous Weirdo.

Lolo Brow, winner of the top prize at the inaugural Burlesque Awards is joined in the latest poll by her Family Fierce comrade Lilly Snatchdragon. Miss Brow, who delivered our annual Alternative Christmas Message, is one of the fastest climbers up the poll alongside singer and compere Reuben Kaye (who can be seen from this week hosting Seven Sins at Cafe de Paris), his Seven Sins co-star Bettsie Bon Bon, Between The Sheets performer and producer Polly Rae and acrobatic clown Velma Von Bon Bon.

New faces for 2016 include Felicity Furore (part of the House of Q who return with a new show on 18 January), Scottish boylesquer Tom Harlow, Northern songbird Amber Topaz and performer and Burlesque Noir producer Raven Noir.

Image: Franco Milazzo



West London Cabaret Venue The Aeronaut Gutted After NYE Blaze

West Acton cabaret venue The Aeronaut was ablaze last night just half an hour after partygoers saw in the New Year.

The “Circus Spectacular” show featured compere Ria Lina and performers fire burlesquer Aurora Galore, comedy music act Rayguns Look Real Enough, clown Dmitri Hatton and circus artistes Jess Love, Le Renn, Silver Lining’s Niamh O’Reilly and Angeliki Nikolakaki.

Around 340 revellers and 12 staff fled the Aeronaut when the alarm was raised. Online footage obtained by the BBC and The Mirror shows the venue alight as over 70 members of the London Fire Brigade tackled the flames. The LFB rescued six people from a first-floor flat above the pub; the neighbouring police station was evacuated too. Three police officers who assisted in tackling the fire are being treated for smoke inhalation. The London Ambulance Service said it took five patients to hospital suffering from ‘minor injuries’.

The venue has been seriously damaged. An LFB spokesman said, “Half of the ground floor of the building is alight. The first and second floors, including the roof of the three-storey building, have been gutted by the fire.” The blaze was finally brought under control by 5am.

The cause of  the fire is not yet known. The police have said the cause was not believed to be suspicious while the LFB have said it was unknown.

Matt Blair (son of TV celebrity Lionel and part of musical act Rayguns Look Real Enough) wrote on Twitter about the night’s events.

According to The Metro, Blair said that he had heard that ‘some idiot’ used a candle to light a branch on a Christmas tree but he was unable to verify this.

Image: @AbdulYusuf


Be Upstanding For Our Alternative Christmas Message From Lolo Brow

Last Christmas, we gave you our heart*. This Christmas, we have something else in mind.

Put down that mince pie, switch off the TV for a few minutes and watch this. Yes, now. We’ll keep this short as you probably have oodles to do like Snapchatting your Christmas jumper, opening that cheeky red from the banks of Lake Aldi or wondering when the Bond film will start.

2016 was a desperately sad one on the musical icon front. And the film and TV icon front. As well as the EU referendum front. Plus the US Presidential elections front. Let’s be honest: by December, we pretty much ran out of fronts to be happy about.

The good news is that Lolo Brow, London’s favourite burlesque/drag superstar, has a special message for you. Earlier this year, she won the top prize at the inaugural Burlesque Awards and, between appearances in the sell-out Family Fierce panto, she found time to make us this exclusive video. In this most tumultuous of years, she has prepared something which comes straight from the heart, the head and the liver. So what does she have to say about it all? Roll VT to find out.

* We later found out that the very next day you gave it away. Looks like we’re not the only one that is heartless.

Check out our 2013 Alternative Christmas Message from Myra DuBois

Or our 2014 Alternative Christmas Message from Holestar

Or maybe even out 2015 Alternative Christmas Message from Virgin Xtravaganzah

EXCLUSIVE: Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival 2017 Announces Show Schedule

The award-winning Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival (HBBF) returns for its fifth year in 2017 with another fun-packed four-day event

In March, the festival announced that they had been successful in a bid to secure funding from Arts Council England. Believed to be the first time that ACE has contributed to an event of this kind, the grant was used to fund an outstanding series of shows which featured local, UK and international talent including American superstar Perle Noire. At The Burlesque Awards in London this September, the festival was named the Best Festival/Event.

HBBF is now established as one of the highlights of the UK cabaret calendar and it is a shining light in the Yorkshire burlesque revolution which has seen brilliant new shows appear in Sheffield and Leeds. The 2017 festival will take place over 27-30 April 2017 and, while, the full-line up won’t be revealed for another couple of weeks, the veil has been lifted on the show schedule.

All shows will be at Hebden Bridge’s Little Theatre unless otherwise stated.


Turn up at 7.30pm for the latest Legend In The Making competition. This may be for newer performers but the talent levels among last year’s contestants were impressive and the bill featured an international cast; last year’s winner, boylesquer Uma Shadow, came all the way from Las Vegas and is coming all the way back to hand the crown onto the 2017 winner. The fun continues at 10.15pm with a new show called The Late Night Quickie, a dark and dangerous hour of envelope-pushing cabaret.



Get that Friday feeling at the 7.30pm show Laugh  Your Knickers Off Comedy Cabaret and then stick around for the return of one of last year’s absolute highlights Diversitease at 10.30pm.



Kicking off at noon and back by popular demand is Tina T’urner Tea Lady with her own full-length solo show. That’s followed at 2.30pm by the much-anticipated debut by Kiki Lovechild and Pi The Mime. Kiki blew away last year’s audience with his moving and magical Sheets and he comes back with an award-winning London clown in the world premier of what is currently titled The Secret Circus Project By Kiki And Pi.

The biggest show of the weekend begins at 8pm when Todmorden Hippodrome is taken over for the Fifth Annual Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival Gala. The line-ups have been spectacular in the past and we can’t wait to see who appears this time around.



Sundays are for relaxing and roasts, right? Wrong. The Hebden Bridge Town Hall will be hosting The Burlesque Bazaar from 11am-5pm while at 2pm there will be (given the history of the festival) a very relevant round table discussion of feminism and the politics of burlesque performance called “I Am Woman – Hear Me Phwoar” (venue TBA).

The festival goes out with a blast from 8pm with The Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival International Showcase.

A limited number of weekend passes covering access to all ten events are available at £85 each (a saving of £37 based on buying individual tickets). Please note that this offer is only available to those who have purchased a Friends’ Membership; the weekend passes go on general sale from 15 December. The full line-up will be announced on 11 December and day passes and tickets to the various workshops will be on sale from 1 January 2017. More information on how to become a Friend of The Hebden Bridge Festival and these passes can be found on the official website.

Interview: Burlesque Queen Midnite Martini On The Highs And Lows Of Her Rise To The Top

When Midnite Martini became the highest profile burlesque performer in the world in 2014, she did it in unique style. 

Every year, the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend (BHoF) in Las Vegas awards one performer the prestigious title of Reigning Queen of Burlesque. In 2014, the South Korean-born dancer Midnite Martini took the award with an act which was very different to the more traditional acts. Her “Blue Siren” routine made superb use of her circus and aerial skills, something which literally and metaphorically elevated her above the competition’s more classically-minded contestants.

This weekend, she will be headlining Milan Extraordinaire, Italy’s first festival dedicated to burlesque and cabaret. The three-day event is produced by the founder of the Milan Burlesque School Mitzi Von Wolfgang, restaurant entrepreneur Giorgio Marchisio and top European burlesquer Cleo Viper and features many highlights from around the country and beyond.

We spoke to Midnite Martini about the challenging climb she has had to her position in burlesque royalty.

People are still talking about your winning act a year on. What was it like performing it at BHoF?

My Blue Siren act combined aerial and burlesque set to modern music. I wore a bright blue short wig and was more like a trippy anime daydream. Again, I didn’t actually think this alternative style would ever win the crown, but that’s probably why I won! I didn’t think that act really had the chance of winning, so I went out there and performed without the internal pressure. I felt the audience, the music, and performed from deep down inside.


Did you think that your aerial skills were a bonus when you appeared at the Burlesque Hall of Fame?

Funny enough, I never thought my “unique” style of burlesque would win at BHoF. I was very shocked when I actually won the crown. My Blue Siren act that I won with was very “neo” for what I thought BHoF wanted. I was under the impression at that time that only classic acts scored well there but, as our art form changes, so do the establishments and trends and I don’t think that is necessarily the case anymore.


“I’m extremely proud to be a face and voice for POC who often don’t feel seen or heard. Things like that fill my heart and soul and make me feel like I’m apart of something bigger than myself. And that is why we do it, right?”


I’m very honoured to be a title holder, especially with this act. I’m very proud of the fact that I am also a Performer of Color Queen and it has meant very much to have other Asian performers tell me how important it was for them to see someone that looked more like them be crowned. It gave the message that a person of Asian descent can be seen as beautiful and successful in a “Western” competition and I’m extremely proud to be a face and voice for POC who often don’t feel seen or heard. Things like that fill my heart and soul and make me feel like I’m apart of something bigger than myself. And that is why we do it, right?


Take us all the way back to the beginning. What first got you dancing?

I was a figure skater when I was much younger and started taking dance classes to help with my skating. Honestly, I was never that graceful as a figure skater and I really took to dancing, so after a few years I decided to hang my skates up and focus just on dancing and theatre. Soon after, I joined youth community theatre groups in addition to dance classes and that’s when I fell in love with musical theatre. I was a total “Broadway” nerd all growing up (and admittedly still today). I took as much dance and theatre as I could through school and ended up getting into what was then a pretty prestigious musical theatre programme for college.


I understand college was a particularly tough time for you.

In college, the musical theatre program directors were very harsh and “real” about the professional dance and theatre world. They told us all that we needed to lose weight and that it didn’t matter how much talent we had: if we didn’t have the female hourglass or the male V, we’d never be hired.

Being one of the only minorities growing up in an all-white family (I was adopted from South Korea as a baby) and living in a predominately Caucasian community, plus being female, a perfectionist, and a dancer I had already struggled with body image and self worth throughout childhood.


“I restricted, binged, purged, over-exercised, and became deeply depressed.”


After having spent most of my high school days dieting, restricting and not feeling good enough, the words from my program directors pushed me over the edge and my regular dieting and obsession with exercise turned into full blown bulimia. I restricted, binged, purged, over-exercised, and became deeply depressed.

One year later, I quit that program and transferred to a different university. There I studied psychology (which I have my degree in) and  continued to struggle with my bulimia and decided I’d never perform again.

After another year of not performing at the new university, I felt like a piece of me was missing. I wanted to start dancing again, but knew I didn’t want to go back to the traditional dance and theatre environment and yearned for a space where I could perform but keep myself healthy.


After all of that, how did you move into circus and burlesque? And which came first?

I found myself auditioning for a local company that combined modern dance with aerial apparatus, Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance in Boulder, Colarodo. and ended up auditioning to join their company. I had never done circus or aerial before but, at that time, the company was looking for dancers who they would then train in aerial. I had always wanted to run away and join the circus so thought here’s my chance! Thankfully I got into the company; I was just 20 years old and this was a turning point that really changed the rest of my life!

I still remember the first company rehearsal I had with them in which one of the company members brought chocolate for everyone to share. I thought to myself, “What?! Is this a trick? They eat chocolate?!” and I knew that this company was a much different environment than what I was used to. They were more concerned about health, strength, and movement quality than what you looked like or what you weighed. I mean this in the most loving way, but it seemed like the circus/aerial world was a safe place for the misfits to come together and create. I felt like I had found a community to which I could relate.


So how did burlesque come into the picture?

Soon after joining Frequent Flyers, I had started wondering about this thing I had heard called burlesque. Honestly, I didn’t know much about it but had a sense that maybe it was another place “misfits” like myself could thrive. I started doing my research and found that there was a burlesque troupe in Denver.

I contacted the troupe leader, Vivienne VaVoom, and told her I did aerial dance and wanted to learn more about burlesque. Vivienne invited me to come watch their next show and when I did I instantly fell in love. The burlesque show had the character and quirk of musical theatre with the acceptance of performers of different shapes and sizes. I met with Vivienne after the show and told her my story and dance background.

Now, you have to keep in mind that this was back in the day, burlesque was still quite underground and unknown in Denver, and I was able to get into burlesque performance differently than what you do now. But back then Vivienne just said, “why don’t you bring two routines and perform in our next show?” And I gladly accepted!


“I was always fascinated with trying to surprise the audience.”


I used my dance and musical theatre training, developed two routines, came down to the bar (where they snuck me in the side door as I was still only 20 at the time) and performed my very first burlesque acts. Vivienne and the troupe liked what I did, they asked me to join the troupe and I performed with them for the next several years.

From there my aim was always to try and blend my dance/circus training with burlesque as seamlessly as possible. I’m sure I didn’t always succeed in this, but what true artist ever does? But my intention was always to have the different art forms flow together and create routines that were true hybrids of striptease and air/circus dancing. I also create straight aerial and straight burlesque routines, but have become most known for my aerial burlesque fusion.

I was always fascinated with trying to surprise the audience. Show them something they’ve never seen before. Sometimes that meant experimenting with moves I could do on a folding chair (like my signature stocking removal) or deconstructing feather fans to create my original design (which I call the Midnite Finger Fans). Being innovative (or attempting to be innovative) was always something that kept me inspired and interested. So I think my style and approach to burlesque really stemmed from those two driving forces, fusion and innovation.

More recently though I’m finding that my inspiration is coming more from playing with vulnerability onstage. I’m curious and excited to see how my style continues to shift as the focus of what stirs me in performance continues to morph!

The second Milan Extraordinaire takes place on 25-27 November. For full information, check out the official website.

Critics’ Choice: Five Cabaret Shows You Really Should See This Week

Remember, remember, November is always full of great cabaret. Forget those loud, empty bangs overhead: for real fireworks, check out these five shows.

TUESDAY: Meow Meow, Royal Festival Hall
The Australian siren dazzled this summer at the Brighton Fringe and in the Emma Rice-directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the RSC. This week, she is back on the South Bank in the company of piano virtuoso Thomas M Lauderdale, and trio Pink Martini and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Operatic cabaret divas are not a rarity, even in the UK, but none do it as well as Meow Meow.

1 November. Royal Festival Hall. Doors open 7:30pm. Tickets £25-45. More information

WEDNESDAY: Holly Penfield’s The Rhythm Of Life, Royal Vauxhall Tavern
Straight outta San Fran, Holly Penfield takes over the RVT for one night only as she sings a medley of her own songs interspersed with that of the iconic actress and singer Judy Garland. Penfield’s career is already five albums deep and the American songbird shows no signs of letting up on her breathtaking performances. We’ll be there as long as she promises to leave the horsewhip at home this time.

2 November. Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Doors open 8pm. Tickets £15 (reserved seating) £10 (general seating). More information

THURSDAY: Barelesque 11: Weird Science, Royal Vauxhall Tavern

A TIC favourite, Barelesque only pops up a few times a year so we recommend you grab your chance to see their shows when you can. Part kooky and kinky burlesque/variety show, part charity auction,  the show has raised thousands for the Albert Kennedy Trust making sure that homeless LGBT youth have a roof over their heads. Oh, and you get to see the awe-inspiring and award-nominated video burlesque artiste Ana Morphic and her co-founders Tallulah Van Leer and Honey Schnapps (pictured above).

3 November. Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Doors open 7pm. Tickets £10-£35. More information

FRIDAY: Jonny Woo’s Un-Royal Variety, Hackney Empire

East End drag legend Jonny Woo doesn’t do variety shows by halves. Take a look at this lot for a cast: Bourgeois & Maurice, Diane Chorley & The Buffet, Le Gateau Chocolat, Peter and Bambi Heaven, Myra Dubois and Lavinia Co-op (another drag legend in her own right).  In between acts, Woo will be presenting topical material including a 10-minute Brexit – The Musical with Richard Thomas (Jerry Springer The Opera).

4 November. Hackney Empire. Doors open 7.30pm. Tickets £10-£35. More information

FRIDAY: Peacock Butch, Resistance Gallery

Describing itself as “a new queer clubbing experience”, this collaboration between bodypainter extraordinaire Victoria Gugenheim and Lucha Britannia’s Garry Vanderhone encourages every flavour of sexuality and gender expression to come on down and flaunt their beautiful selves. There will be live performance from alt-burlesquer and make-up genius Marnie Scarlet as well as a make-up artist on hand to help put that look together.

4 November, Resistance Gallery. Doors open 9pm. £5/£3 (students/extremely fabulous creatures). More information

Image: Barelesque co-founders Ana Morphic, Tallulah Van Leer and Honey Schnapps

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, Who Is The Best Burlesquer Of Them All?

Organised by Agent Burlieque and Burlesque Bible, tomorrow night sees the first Burlesque Awards with ten star acts scheduled to perform.

The votes have been gathered and counted, the trophies have been polished and on Wednesday, the Burlesque Awards (hosted by Reuben Kaye, above) will be handed out to an international array of stars.

It will not only be individual performers that are recognised but troupes and shows too. Past performers will be recognised with an “Inspiration From The Past” award and there are separate prizes for boylesque and burlesque dancers as well for best festival and best competition.

There will also be specialist awards for Best Gender Bending Performer (sponsored by This Is Cabaret) as well as Best Compere, Best Costumier and Best Political Voice.

A distinguished panel of judges (photographers Neil Kendall and Suelan Allison, producers Saph Rox and Vivacity Bliss and This Is Cabaret’s editor-in-chief Franco Milazzo) have picked twelve performers for the grand prize of Best Burlesquer 2016, ten of which will perform on the night. The breadth and depth of talent for this award is a true testimony to the current quality of the UK burlesque scene and includes video projection artiste Ana Morphic, the multi-talented Fancy Chance and the latex-loving Marnie Scarlet.

The chosen dozen are:

  • Ana Morphic
  • Bourgeoisie
  • Cece Sinclair
  • Dave The Bear
  • Fancy Chance*
  • Felicity Furore
  • Havana Hurricane*
  • Lilly SnatchDragon
  • Lolo Brow
  • Marnie Scarlet
  • Velma Von Bon Bon
  • Vicky Butterfly

* not performing

The Awards take place at Proud Cabaret. Doors open at 7 and the action kicks off at 8pm. Seating is on a first come, first served basis.

Some tickets are still available and information on location, ticket prices and their availability can be found here.

Review: Briefs, London Wonderground


An all-male Aussie ‘burlesque show with balls’, Briefs bounds energetically back into London’s Southbank’s quirky London Wonderground. Four hundred years after Shakespeare’s gender experimenting plays drew gasps at the Globe and bear pits and brothels lined the streets of Bankside, it is nice to know that licentiousness still has a haven in this historic area.

But, while the pleasures of burlesque or boylesque lies in the power to thrill, surprise and subvert, this show which has barely changed over the last four years felt very short of that mark. True, there is a new face on board in drag performer James Welsby but most are familiar too (not least host Fez Fa’Anana and his fellow cast members Captain Kidd and Evil Hate Monkey).

This may be harsh on the good spirited show, perhaps; among the short performance segments (Briefs in name, brief in nature) there were some highly admirable acts.

Firstly and the act that opened the night, was Thom Worrell, one of Australia’s leading aerialists and contortionists. Bending and gliding through his suspended hoop, he brought sensuality to his routine. Thom’s dexterity seemed effortless and almost feline, as if he was stroking and not grabbing onto his apparatus.

The next standout act was a clown routine from Evil Hate Monkey (Adam Krandle) involving undressing a banana. As Krandle unpeels his banana strip by strip, he is visibly struck with pleasure and pain and we enjoyed the awkward surprise of a man in the audience made to eat it. It also had added value for anyone familiar with Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play, Krapp’s Last Tape and its fixation on banana unpeeling for the long opening scene.

But, as a boylesque virgin, we felt let down elsewhere with the lack of creativity, surprise and ingenuity. There was a hula hoop wielding cowboy, a school boy (Louis Biggs) playing with rulers and apples and a Madonna-inspired dancer shaking off her leather to reveal nipple tassels. We even had the King of Burlesque 2011 himself, Captain Kidd, who, glugging and spouting mouthfuls from the massive water bowl prop and striking poses on his trapeze, provided the finale as a sort of real life water statue.

These routines were pleasant but they lacked spark, wit and creativity. It’s strange in some ways this show is four years on the road and still has stayed roughly the same. There were no massive ideas here, or clever choreography that would warrant keeping. At the same venue we recently saw Between the Sheets with its naughty take on the airline safety briefing – that was sexy, funny, subverting and imaginative. Why not offer the same from the guys? 

Thanks to its positive vibe and spirit, the show still provides a good time and there is good patter from the elegant and charismatic Fez Fa’Anana, which brings the disparate parts together.

Briefs was ultimately pretty, but failed to stimulate the mind for us. What can we say, we want the lot – talent beauty and brains. Is that too much to ask from the boys?

Thank you to our guest reviewer Belinda Liversedge!

Briefs is at London Wonderground until 24 September at the London Wonderground. Tickets: from £17.00 (includes £1 online booking fee). More information: http://www.londonwonderground.co.uk/whats-on/briefs1