The House of Burlesque steps out of Madame Jojos and gives the London Wonderground Spiegeltent something to whoop about.
When the House of Burlesque girls came out to The Cure’s Lovecats in typically slinky manner, adorned with cat tails and ears and licking their gloved arms like their feline counterparts whilst dancing (with a little bumping), it was hard to not let the heart sink just a little. It seemed as though I would have to prepare myself to write the word “generic”. A lot. Thankfully, a somewhat shaky start led to an enjoyable and engaging night of skilled variety.
After the cats, on steps Miss Tempest Rose, circus-like in her long stripy dress and sporting her signature roses on her arm (these were later distributed to a fully involved audience with a flourish and wink). From the off, there are whoops and cheers as Miss Tempest Rose rouses the crowd into a stomping and clapping mob. Burlesque virgins are encouraged to come forward and it is great to know that these many first-timers actually got a show that did what burlesque originally set out to do – to tease, politicise and parody.
Unfortunately, that initial vigour dies off quite quickly with Chrys Columbine‘s fan dance. Tempest Rose does ask after if we had all been stunned into silence, and this may be right, but Columbine doesn’t seem too comfortable with her fans tonight. Whilst the art of the fan dance is purely to tease and hide, well, the important bits, she spends much of the time with her fans in the air and looking, dare I say it, a bit bored.
The show picks up in pace with Jo Foley and her partner performing their tumble/swing dance act Pack Up. Foley seems less comfortable than she is later when the aerial hoop is lowered and at one point stumbles on a move, but together the pair put on a lively and fun display which the audience respond to loudly and encouragingly.
Jolie Papillon then comes on to perform a cute French Moulin Rouge-styled act which shows off her dexterity and suppleness as a performer. The actual act is a fairly standard burlesque routine with some high-kicks and leg stretches thrown in but the audience reaction is ecstatic, so boxes ticked all round there. Likewise, Miss Tempest Rose’s lounge version of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit receives a loud reception.
And then to Audacity Chutzpah‘s signature act, A Hundred Years of Women’s Liberation in Six and a Half Minutes. Good grief. If you haven’t seen this act you really must seek it out: it’s a sparky, witty and incredibly clever twist on a striptease. Burlesque is political, it’s witty and it’s parody. Chutzpah covers every angle and raises feminist issues to boot. The lithe South Londoner is always a hard act to follow but luckily Chloe Hannah Lloyd, who is currently on tour with the Folly Mixtures, puts on her sensual and skilled hula act ending with a colourful human slinky. Likewise, Leonie Soprano’s Vanishing Showgirl act was funny and smart. Luckily, the lights were dark enough so that the white gloves, white pants and white bra (not to mention the wig and tassels) were lit up so it really did seem as though the showgirl was disappearing glove by glove.
The show is strikingly intelligent, something people really need to start associating with burlesque more. It was also witty and amusing, with Miss Tempest Rose keeping the audience entertained brilliantly. Whilst the show started in a somewhat slow way it ended on a gorgeous Singing in the Rain umbrella act with all the girls showing us one more time how they could be sexy, sassy and very funny.
The House of Burlesque. Hosted by Miss Tempest Rose. London Wonderground, Jubilee Gardens, off Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX. 26 June 2013. 9.15pm. £15.50. www.houseofburlesque.co.uk
Both photos courtesy of Rich Newnham Photography.