Hot on the high heels of cult show Burlexe, its sister production Boylexe took over the incandescently chic confines of the Shadow Lounge inSoho last Wednesday, for the first of two engagements. A show that mixes male burlesque with monologues, live music, gender bending, dance and a smattering of tasty-looking willies, it casts a look at the universe of male striptease that is hard to resist, if unevenly presented.
Short dramatic soliloquies challenge common misplaced stereotypes about the motivations of both professional disrobers and recreational exhibitionists. Crafted from interviews with real-life strippers, they explore the ins, outs, ups and downs of the trade’s reality. Award-winning pop singer and mistress of ceremony Kele le Roc (famous for hits My Love and A Little Bit of Lovin’) is at hand to guide you through the journey, which she kicks off by singing whilst deftly circling the space on roller skates, as if to seductively rope you into the arena with her velvet tones.
The chinks in Boylexe’s armour are more obvious in the spoken segments. Howard Wilmot’s comprehensive and penetrating text gets largely reduced to a shaky, monotone talking-heads delivery by most of the cast, featuring Randolph Hott, Teddy Boylesque and otherLondon male burlesquers. Its biographical dramatic power never comes alive as performer after performer absently tackle it with furtive glances darting about.
The boylesque numbers scattered through the programme provide a welcome relief, owing not only to the prodigious amount of beautiful bodies on display, but also the energy of the artists. Most tip the scale towards hen-night “full-montying” (thankfully without the towels and baby oil) rather than the burlesque you’d expect from the show’s title, but nevertheless draw heated cheers from the crowd. One exception is Mister Mistress, who takes to the stage in his birthday suit and proceeds to drag up in a remarkable reverse striptease. Looking like an androgynous Sex Pistols groupie, he puts on a compelling act full of attitude and defiance.
The delicious satire of Phillip Antony’s Internet dating routine brims with geek humour. The bespectacled nerd smoothly transforms into a hunk in reaction to the voiceover commands of a remote female partner, stopping short of a full reveal. It’s witty and sexy burlesque, delivered with energy: this boy can dance.
The biggest surprise of the night is Kele Le Roc’s break from hosting to transform into a “Jamaican rude girl in diaspora”. Bragging about her “expensive face” that is “one nose job away from Janet Jackson,” she performs the most convincing monologue of the evening. Her striking tranny character doesn’t let you out of its grip until she’s done.
Like the all-female Burlexe, Boylexe offers an intriguing look at a marginalised art form surrounded by passionate fans and committed detractors alike. As far as entertainment is concerned, though, it packs no more than a few instigating moments amidst mildly amusing bits of passing interest.
Boylexe. Hosted by Kele le Roc. Shadow Lounge, London W1F 0RF. 28 November, 19:30. £15. www.boylexe.co.uk
Can’t get enough of hunky boylesquers? Check out This Is Cabaret’s exclusive gallery of Boylexe shots by Gui O’Connor.
Photo credits: Magnus Arrevad