vicky butterfly

Who Are The UK’s Top 20 Burlesque Performers?

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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

 

 


Review: Hotel Black Cat, London Wonderground

Hotel Black Cat, London WondergroundRead more

Short of a lunatic asylum or a prison, apparently the best place to meet an assortment of crazy characters is a hotel. From American Horror Story to The Grand Budapest Hotel to Crossroads, the accepted wisdom is that, if one sits in a lobby and waits long enough, every aspect of humanity will pass before your eyes in all their tawdry glory. Hotel Black Cat, the latest summer spectacular from the award-winning company Black Cat Cabaret, captures this sentiment perfectly.

While Lili La Scala brought “sensual psychopomp” hosting to last year’s production, it is up to Dusty Limits to lead the line this time as the felicitous faux-Fawlty of this imaginary joint. Populated by a menagerie of curious creatures, the hotel is in dire financial straits. The only salvation lies in the form of a rich gentleman who will be shortly arriving with his chequebook and his lovely wife. What could possibly go wrong?

Dusty Limits recently grabbed headlines on both sides of the Atlantic earlier this month after an ill-advised “rape joke” at the prestigious Burlesque Hall of Fame (something he later apologised for). This time around, he thankfully keeps to a script which is engaging without getting in the way of the action.

And what action! Featuring circus to burlesque to physical comedy to sideshow to music, this production is the epitome of variety. All this cabaret party needs is a glittery kitchen sink and it would be good to go.

Director Laura “Frisky” Corcoran has a bevy of talented folk at her disposal and she deploys them well. She doesn’t appear herself (in contrast to Between the Sheets, the other London Wonderground production she is directing) and she doesn’t need to: no less than fifteen performers take to the stage at one time or another.

About half of those performers are part of either dance trio Cabaret Rouge or musical quartet Bowjangles. More blanche than rouge for their skit here, the former portray cocaine-hoofing ballerinas while the latter back up Limits on his solo numbers as well as putting on a hilarious operatic battle which is whimsical and wild as all hell.

Nathan & Isis were one of last year’s memorable highlights for reasons both wonderful and painful and they return here for more two-handed acrobatics which are just frankly gob-smacking. The broad-shouldered fellow throws around his tiny partner with skill, strength and confidence and the pair never lose the deep connection they display through every twist and turn.

Equally astounding is Vicky Butterfly’s much-admired masterpiece When The Hard Rain Falls…The Night Flowers Bloom. It’s the burlesque act at the end of the universe, an intense and epochal example of an art form which is too often style over substance. The mesh of modern light technology and spell-binding dance is perfectly ensconced in the dark of Spiegeltent to create an unforgettable experience.

Added to the mix is the superb Chrisalys, one of the UK’s finest vaudevillians and circus performers. There are very few actors, never mind cabaret artistes, who can engender such a sense of character and intrigue from the get go. He is on stage only for a short while but, in that time, rolls out a literally brilliant amuse-bouche of an act combining theatre, horror and some retina-searing fire-breathing. Rounding out the cast are gentleman juggler Florian Brooks and clown Dimitri Hatton. While Brooks is as cool as a cucumber as he throws around glasses, a bottle and a tray, Hatton mines the other extreme with his uproarious slice of slapstick.

The much-lauded Limits has a mixed night on the whole. On the one hand, his rendition of The Eagles’ Hotel California is both fitting and fun as is the arrangement of Be Our Guest from Beauty And The Beast. On the other, his toothless and banal lounge version of Guns ‘n’ Roses’ Welcome To The Jungle stinks the place out; if you ever wondered what the aural equivalent of some poor hedgehog walking around without spines sounded like, this is it. Even – and, sometimes, especially – the best variety shows suffer from “wow” overload but everything here just flows naturally largely down to Limits who superbly drawing the audience’s attention as the set is tweaked this way and that.

Overall, this show is a treat from soup to nuts. As director, Corcoran should be proud of Hotel Black Cat. Her direction is near-flawless throughout and she demonstrates subtlety and deftness in an art form that rarely makes a virtue of either. She gives the artists licence to veer from their usual shtick and show off new sides of themselves. A prize example is how Katharine Arnold gets to do much more than the mid-air magic she is best known for: as well as a burst of her trademark aerial antics, we see her put on a spot of tap dancing before later joining Nathan & Isis in a dazzling display of three-way acro-balance. Corcoran manages to keep the whole shebang rolling without the need for an interval or a serious breather and her considerate arrangement of the acts gives each room to breathe and develop; despite the hefty headcount, there’s definitely no sense of anyone being shoehorned in.

Shows of the length and quality of Hotel Black Cat are at a premium this year. The ambition shown here deserve the widest audience possible.

Hotel Black Cat will be at the London Wonderground every Friday until 26 August. More information can be found on the London Wonderground website.

Burlesque Review: The Blue Fez, Underdog Art Gallery

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Of all the places, in all the towns, in all the world, new burlesque night The Blue Fez rolled into the Underdog Art Gallery last month. Was it the beginning of something beautiful?

It’s not unusual for cabaret to be political but it is rare for it to reflect what is going on elsewhere around the world. Burlesque dancer and Blue Fez producer Luna Rosa wanted to highlight the richness of the arts in the Middle East and North Africa. She told us, “the current political climate there is one which doesn’t reflect the art that Egypt, in particular, was especially known for so I really want to remind people of that spirit and romanticism in my own way, in spite of the negativity that is in the political air. I want the audience to feel they’re in a place that is hot blooded and exciting whilst wandering through the alleyways of Khan el Khalili in Cairo.” Et voilà, The Blue Fez.

It’s fair to say she has assembled an all-killer, no filler bill for the launch night. Every one of those appearing on stage is an established part of the cabaret circuit. Take pianist/singer Pete Saunders as an example. Probably best known for his association with wedding reception favourites Dexy’s Midnight Runners, he has carved out an impressive career as a blues maestro.

He truly is a demon behind a keyboard with a growler of a voice and a deadpan wit: “this is a show that deals with adult themes, like regret and disillusionment”. As his own Blues & Burlesque shows, his work with Ivy Paige and his performance here amply demonstrate, a live musician of his calibre really does add to the stripping experience.

kitty bang bang - the blue fez
Kitty Bang Bang at The Blue Fez, Underdog Art Gallery. Image: Sin Bozkurt. Do not reproduce without permission.

And if it is stripping you’re after, you’re in the right place. Exploding onto the stage, Kitty Bang Bang acts like someone who wouldn’t know fear even it was spelled out for her in metre-high capital letters.

Her fire-breathing and fuck-you antics pump the night with animalistic energy. Her iconic cocktail glass routine seen in last year’s Between The Sheets is cut down here but is no less thrilling for it.  With live backing from Saunders, she raises the excitement levels with every stomp, bump and grind.

And then there’s Vicky Butterfly. We’d be surprised if David Attenborough in all his years has come across a more graceful creature than her. She cuts through the air effortlessly with superlative technique, floating over the stage like a ballerina in full flight.

Her “White Swan” routine is a masterclass in composure, a tapestry of motion featuring huge white feather fans which give the whole act an ethereal and cinematic quality. If you want to see her performances up close, we recommend pulling up a pew when the Scarfe’s Bar cabaret re-commences later this year.

Vicky Butterfly at The Blue Fez. Image: Sin Bozkurt. Do not reproduce without permission.
Vicky Butterfly at The Blue Fez, Underdog Art Gallery. Image: Sin Bozkurt. Do not reproduce without permission.

She is joined at The Blue Fez by her Scarfe’s Bar colleague Coco Malone. With a voice smokier than an overfilled hookah, the chanteuse turns this concrete bunker into a cathedral of sound. Her raw and powerful singing pierces the soul and transports us from the hustle and bustle of central London to a more intimate place far off in time and space, a crossroad cafe where one may see anything and everything if one grabs a drink and waits long enough by the bar.

Bursting that bubble, though, is Benjamin Louche. An award-winning compère and producer of the iconic Double R Club, here his contributions strike a markedly different tone to the rest of the evening. Running gags about a furniture delivery and curtains are mildly amusing but not in keeping with the vibe or theme elsewhere while his nods to contemporary politics jerks us out of this imaginary world and back to grim reality. In this crafted atmosphere, some of his jokes come across as comparatively crass. A prize example is when he asks the audience to guess what has two legs and bleeds a lot. The answer? “A dead dog.”

Coco Malone at The Blue Fez. Image: Sin Bozkurt. Do not reproduce without permission.
Coco Malone at The Blue Fez, Underdog Art Gallery. Image: Sin Bozkurt. Do not reproduce without permission.

Giving depth, substance and entire layers of meaning to The Blue Fez is the mistress of this ceremony, Luna Rosa (cover image). The dancer spent some time away from the cabaret scene but has come back with routines as exotic and creative as before.

She takes foreign influences and adds complex and involved dance routines and symbolic props big and small, not least a huge fez upon which she climbs. Her choreography is admirable but occasionally blighted by the venue’s dodgy sightlines.

Luna Rosa has succeeded in creating a burlesque show with a distinctive vibe and a quality line-up. The venue may lack the fripperies of more established joints but there’s enough glitz and glamour here to keep all eyes fixed to the stage.

The Blue Fez returns in September. Meanwhile, here’s a glimpse into the launch night goings-on.

Cover image: Luna Rosa at The Blue Fez, Underdog Art Gallery.
All images: Sin Bozkurt 

Live And Direct: Frisky Opens Up About What It Takes To Be A Cabaret Director

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Ahead of the opening of the The Black Cat’s latest Wonderground production next week, we speak to Hotel Black Cat’s director Laura “Frisky” Corcoran.

The Black Cat is on the prowl again this summer with another much-anticipated production at the London Wonderground. Rising from the ashes of the epic Boom Boom Club, Black Cat Cabaret has found its own niche in London’s busy variety scene. As well as the twice-weekly dinner show Salon des Artistes at the Café Royal, it has staged large-scale productions at the London Wonderground in 2014 and 2015. This year’s outing is titled Hotel Black Cat and features an array of top-notch burlesque, circus and musical talents including Dusty Limits, Vicky Butterfly, Katharine Arnold, Florian Brooks and Nathan & Isis.

The production is being directed by another name very familiar to fans musical comedy, Laura Corcoran who performs with Matthew Floyd Jones in the acclaimed duo Frisky & Mannish. As well as taking the reins at Hotel Black Cat, Corcoran is also helming another Wonderground show in burlesque extravaganza Between The Sheets and rocking the Udderbelly with Jones in Frisky & Mannish’s Cabariot.

Few cabaret shows have their own directors. With this in mind, we decided to ask her about this rather rare role.


 

How did you transition into this position from your performing background? 

I’ve made shows as long as I can remember – from my brother and I putting together “musical evenings” for our long-suffering parents, to making up dance routines in the playground, to putting on youth drama with full council funding when I was 15.

 

 

That’s an impressive start. What happened after that?

At university, Matthew (Mannish) and I co-founded Musicals of Oxford to produce musical shows while we were there. We always worked together in various combinations – me directing him, him musical-directing me, us performing together – so performing has always gone hand-in-hand with creating and collaborating.

With Frisky & Mannish, of course, we were writing and putting together every single thing about the shows ourselves, so again, the elements were inextricably linked. Once our touring schedule eased up, we were both able to take other opportunities both as performers and creatives.

 

What do you find so attractive about being a director? 

I’ve always been a fan of good structure  – which is not to say I’ve always achieved it! – but trying to shape an evening’s entertainment as a whole has always appealed to me. From selecting the Front Of House playlist, to the pre-show lighting state, through the progression of the performance as a whole – the ups and downs, the lighter moments and the darker moments, and building to whatever conclusion you’re aiming for – be that to satisfy the audience, or deliberately unsettle them – right through to the music playing as they leave the room.

 

Would you say that as a director you have developed a particular style?

I have strong gut feelings about whether things work for me or not, and I can’t really analyse what those things have in common. That might be an easier question for someone to answer with an outside eye!

I wouldn’t be surprised either way – if my gut has particular tastes, then there probably is a style emerging; but similarly, I always heavily collaborate, so there’s always going to be different influences on every project.

 

And how do you decide what path to take the audience down?

There’s no single way to create that journey, so the possibilities are endless. Although endless possibilities terrify me, and I feel like I work much better within difficult confines, strangely enough! This is possibly why the low budgets of cabaret work for me.

 

How is the role of a cabaret director different to, say, that of a theatre director? 

Cabaret performers are extremely self-sufficient and self-motivated, and spend their lives crafting their skills and their act, and performing it in a huge variety of settings. So, for me, every cast member is a creative powerhouse in their own right.

In theatre, of course, actors are incredibly skilled and creative, but they have to adapt in every job to the piece, the team, the demands of the role. Where actors will look to directors/producers for the creative vision, cabaret artists want to collaborate to get the best for their act and the show as a whole. There are a lot more ideas at the table, and when you cast a cabaret show, you know that you want exactly what that particular act brings, not their ability to be something else entirely. So, essentially, I think of it as much much more collaborative.

 

What would you say makes for a good cabaret director? 

The ability to herd cats! But cats you respect enormously, and know will deliver something sensational, no matter what. A degree of laissez-faire is useful, for one’s own sanity, but essentially, put together the right company, and the show makes itself. Then you just have to make sure it flows well, looks incredible and doesn’t overrun.

 

So do you think a director should be credited with for the success (or not) of a production? 

Ultimately, the producer is the boss. And sometimes, the performer is the producer, and then the dynamic is completely different from casting and creating a show with a team. I think it very much depends on the type of show, and that particular company’s dynamic, which, unfortunately, is almost impossible for audiences and critics to know about. So in that respect, I often think directors get undue praise and criticism – but I think you know that going into it, and it’s just another side of the role. All you can do is be the best navigator you can, as really I think that’s the essence of the job. As long as you can keep it as on track as possible, you’ve done your job.

 

As a director, what is your vision for Hotel Black Cat? 

(Black Cat Cabaret producer) David Harris and I have worked closely together on the vision for Hotel Black Cat, He brought the hotel concept to me, and showed me some amazing research materials that got me hooked straight away.

On the concept side,  it’s recalling the hedonism of New York’s Chelsea Hotel, but in our familiar Black Cat Parisienne setting, a place where artists live, work and play, but is at once endlessly creative, and dangerously destructive.

We also wanted to reflect a little of what is going on with artistic hubs at the moment – money booting us out in favour of profit-friendly business, so it’s slightly later in the 20th Century than the classic Black Cat shows of old, and with a flavour of a different breed of society closing in. But really, we wanted to return to what makes the Black Cat Cabaret such a unique, successful and long-standing company: the Parisian bohemian spirit, the crashing together of old world and new, and stunning period costume and detail. There are narrative threads, but rather than “telling a story” they are ways of exploring aspects of love, art and the shift from one era into one another.

 

Finally, is there any London show around now or in the near future that you would love to have a stab at directing?

In my wildest dreams, I’d love to do a large-budget musical! If the director of Aladdin were to, say, eat a dodgy burger at Balans, I just want it on record that I’d be happy to step into the breach…

Hotel Black Cat opens at London Wonderground on 17 June and continues on every Friday until 26 August. More information and tickets can be on the London Wonderground website.

Between The Sheets opens at London Wonderground on 9 June and continues on 30 June, 21 July, 4, 18 and 25 August and 8 September. More information and tickets can be on the London Wonderground website.

Frisky & Mannish’s Cabariot can be seen in the Udderbelly tent on 8 June and 6 July. More information and tickets can be on the Udderbelly website.

Why You Should Head North To See The World’s Best Burlesque

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We all know London is the centre of the known universe, right? If one wants to see the finest international burlesque talent to step foot on this hallowed isle, one just has to be in the capital, right? That’s how it goes, right?

Wrong. Oh, how so wrong.

Take a look at 21st Century Burlesque’s latest Top 50, a global industry poll where every fan has an equal voice, then take a look at this list: Kitten & Lou, Perle Noire, Dirty Martini, Jo “Boobs” Weldon, Vicky Butterfly, Havana Hurricane and Cleo Viper. If you want to see all those aforementioned dancers, we highly recommend a trip up the M1 to these events.


Perle Noire will be appearing at the Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival this Sunday.
Perle Noire will be appearing at the Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival this Saturday.

Shake a leg if you want to see Perle Noire (above). She was the first runner-up at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend in Las Vegas last year and ranked #2 in the 21CB Top 50 2015. On Saturday 30 April, she’ll be heading an all-star line-up at the Festival Gala which takes place on 30 April at Todmorden Town Hall (part of this weekend’s award-winning Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival). Hosted by Scotty The Blue Bunny, the show also features Kiki Lovechild, Kitty Bang Bang, Lady Wildflower and Velma Von Bon.

The Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival Gala takes place on 30 April at Todmorden Town Hall. The festival runs from 28 April-1 May. More information on this show and other festival events can be found on the official website.


Italian siren Cleo Viper is the European #1 burlesque performer according to the 21CB 2015 Top 50 and who are we to disagree? She and the epic Vicky Butterfly (21CB 2015 #10) will be appearing at the Ugly Bug and Butterfly Ball, an event produced by acclaimed industry photographer Neil Kendall. Alongside them will be a roster of top-end vaudeville talent including Abigail Collins, The Boy With Tape On His Face, Sir Leopold Aleksandr and Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer.

The Ugly Bug And Butterfly Ball takes place at Morecambe Winter Gardens, 209 Marine Road Central, LA4 4BU Morecambe on 30 April. Tickets and more information can be found here.


Possibly the hottest couple in world cabaret, burlesque star Kitten LaRue and her drag king hubby Lou Henry Hoover are better known as Kitten N’ Lou. They topped this year’s 21CB Top 50 and are coming to Leeds’ Velvet Curtain Cabaret on 27 May, a month after they headline what is possibly the final ever Sleaze in London on 28 April. Up North, they’ll be sharing the stage with another Top 50 dancer, Havana Hurricane, as well as Kiki DeVille (The Voice) and Double R Club favourite Em Brulee.

Velvet Curtain Cabaret takes place on 27 May 2016 at City Varieties Music Hall, Swan Street, Leeds, LS1 6LW. Tickets and more information can be found here.


Dirty Martini hit #1 in 21CB’s 2012 poll and is a perennial crowd favourite wherever she goes. This July, she’ll be going to both Leeds and Manchester as part of Burlesque, An Audience With Dirty Martini And Guests and she’ll be taking the likes of Millie Dollar, Rusty Von Chrome, Cece Sinclair and Heidi Bitz with her. She’ll only be spending a single night in each city so hop on the good foot and get to it if you want to see one of the world’s finest strippers working today do her thing.

You can see Dirty Martini and company on 8 July 2016 at Leeds’ Live Art Bistro (ticket information here) and 9 July 2016 at Manchester’s Lowry Theatre (ticket information here).


And if all that wasn’t enough, the Sheffield-born Raven Noir is bringing New York’s Jo “Boobs” Weldon (headmistress of the New York School Of Burlesque and #2 on the 21CB 2012 poll) to the UK in October. Weldon will be headlining at Burlesque Noir held at the Blackpool Tower and hosted by Cafe de Paris’ Reuben Kaye (21CB 2015 #50).

Burlesque Noir takes place on 8 October 2016 at Blackpool Tower. Tickets and more information can be found here.

Behind The Scenes At The 2016 All Nude Cabaret Charity Calendar

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This Sunday sees the launch of the 2016 All Nude Cabaret Calendar at Fontaine’s. As a taster of what to expect, photographer Sin Bozkurt has shared some priceless and revealing behind-the-scenes shots he took.

You probably know at least one person who has survived, died of or is suffering from cancer. These days, that, unfortunately, does not make you special. What could make you special is if you decided to do something about this situation, put your time and money where your heart is and take a stand against an amoral killer that doesn’t care where you live, how you take your coffee, who you know, how old you are or how well loved you are.

For the last three years, a fundraising campaign spearheaded by Rose Thorne has put together an annual calendar featuring many of London’s finest cabaret folk. Vaudevillians of all hues have stripped naked before Sin Bozkurt’s lens and helped to compile the All Nude Cabaret Charity Calendar. All proceeds from sales of the calendar are split between Cancer Research and Macmillan Cancer Nurses.

This year’s effort features some of the finest burlesque, musical, drag and sideshow performers out there: Vicky Butterfly, David Hoyle, Kitty Bang Bang, Chi Chi Revolver, Ivy Paige, Laurence Owen, Myra DuBois, Lili La Scala, Urban Voodoo Machine, Nathan Evans, Snake Fervor and Flabbergast Theatre.

Check out their cheeky behind-the-scenes photos below and buy a calendar to see what the final shots look like. Even better, turn up to Fontaine’s on Sunday to buy a copy and get it signed by some of its stars.

All photos: Sin Bozkurt. Please do not reproduce without permission.

The All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016 launches this Sunday. Photos by Sin Bozkurt©
The All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016 launches this Sunday. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Kitty Bang Bang for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Kitty Bang Bang for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Laurence Owen for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Laurence Owen for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Myra DuBois for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Myra DuBois for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Ivy Paige for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Ivy Paige for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Urban Voodoo Machine for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Urban Voodoo Machine for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Nathan Evans for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Nathan Evans for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Vicky Butterfly for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Vicky Butterfly for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
David Hoyle for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
David Hoyle for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Chi Chi Revolver for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Chi Chi Revolver for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Lili La Scala for the Nathan Evans for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Lili La Scala for the Nathan Evans for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Snake Fervour for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Snake Fervour for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Chi Chi Revolver for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Chi Chi Revolver for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Snake Fervor for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Snake Fervor for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Laurence Owen for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Laurence Owen for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Vicky Butterfly for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Vicky Butterfly for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Lili La Scala for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Lili La Scala for the for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Flabbergast Theatre for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
Flabbergast Theatre for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
David Hoyle for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©
David Hoyle for the All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©

The All Nude Cabaret Calendar 2016 launches this Sunday. Photo by Sin Bozkurt©

The Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival Is Back!

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The Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival 2015 opens its doors next Thursday for four packed days of shows, workshops and more. We look into what this shining jewel of the UK burlesque scene has to offer.

Fans of the art of burlesque may remember the frankly and rather hilariously misinformed Hebden Burlesque Festival brouhaha of 2013. In a nutshell, an elected official who apparently didn’t know the first thing about burlesque decided to deny the festival the opportunity to take place in a council-managed building, saying that she considered that the art form “arouses strong feelings, and many people feel it is demeaning to women, and raises issues of gender equality”. Which is odd, considering that this just isn’t true and, moreover, Hebden Bridge has a reputation for being really rather liberal, at least when it comes to women.

Heidi Bang Tidy, who co-produces the festival with fellow performer Lady Wildflower, insisted at the time that burlesque was a “legal and legitimate art form” and that “we object to being told that the people of Hebden Bridge are not capable of deciding for themselves whether they wish to purchase a ticket for a burlesque show and that our show is not an ‘appropriate’ use of a public building”.

Unperturbed by all that, this year Tidy and Wildflower return with the UK’s most “inappropriate” festival, or for the grown-ups among us, Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival, and the line-up is blinding. Rosie Lugusi, Khandie Khisses, Vicky Butterfly, Andromeda Circus, The Boy With Tape On His Face, Lili La Scala and Tricity Vogue will all be there, along with the renowned “Anti-Art School” Dr Sketchy’s. The festival, which runs from Thursday 30th April – Sunday 3rd May 2015, looks set to be a long weekend of fun, frolicking, fabulousness and potentially a glittery middle finger to those locals of a more sensitive disposition.

Boy with Tape
The Boy With Tape on His Face.

 

The festival features a plethora of live shows spread over four venues in two towns, Mytholmroyd and Hebden Bridge. The party is kicked off next Thursday by a charity fundraiser and Burlesque Bazaar hosted by The Voice’s Kiki Deville. Rosie Lugosi helms the Late Night Cabaret the next evening and Heidi Bang Tidy reveals the stars of tomorrow at the Legend In The Making Newcomers Competition. The winner of that contest joins an all-star cast at the following day’s Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival Gala featuring Vicky Butterfly, Russell Bruner, The Boy With Tape on His Face and Violet Blaze.

There will also be plenty to do during the day with twelve different workshops providing an education in a number of areas. Attendees can learn to bump’n’grind with Khandie Khisses, get lessons on the art of the fan-dance or dive into “Burlesque for Beginners” classes. And then there’s the whip cracking workshops, vintage hair tutorials, aerial taster sessions and lessons on how to play a ukelele with Tricity Vogue, who is also bringing her swing band along to perform at the festival.

All in all, the weekend will be packed with scintillating burlesque acts, amazing circus performances and engaging workshops. Get there and show the town just why burlesque is something worth celebrating for everyone.

For information and to book tickets check out the Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival website.

WIN Tickets To These Trees Are Made Of Blood At Southwark Playhouse

These Trees Are Made Of Blood will be at the Southwark Playhouse from 18 March - 11 April.Read more
These Trees Are Made Of Blood will be at the Southwark Playhouse from 18 March - 11 April.
These Trees Are Made Of Blood will be at the Southwark Playhouse from 18 March – 11 April.

Featuring cabaret performances from Vicky Butterfly, Rhyannon Styles, Kiki Lovechild, Lydia Darling, Ava Iscariot, Felicity Furore and more, These Trees Are Made of Blood at the Southwark Playhouse tells the story of one mother’s search for her daughter.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Argentina was locked in a period of state terrorism, with a military dictatorship waging war on suspected left-wing political sympathizers. Thousands of citizens were “disappeared”, seized by the authorities and rarely heard from again.

Set in a timeless Buenos Aires cabaret club before, during and after Argentina’s Dirty War, These Trees Are Made of Blood blends original live music and exciting cabaret acts with an urgent narrative. This is a new piece of political theatre which promises to be an unforgettable audience experience.

So come on in. The club’s open all hours and history can always be rewritten after one too many.

To be in with a chance to win a pair of tickets to see These Trees Are Made Of Blood at the Southwark Playhouse, answer this question correctly.

Which Latin American city is These Trees Are Made Of Blood set in?

a) Salvador
b) Buenos Aires
c) Lima

Answers should be emailed to  win@thisiscabaret.com with the subject line COMPETITION-BLOOD.

The competition’s deadline is 11am on Monday 16 March 2015. This Is Cabaret will choose one winner by lucky draw and contact them by email with details on how to redeem their prize. By submitting an entry to this competition you confirm that you are at least 18 years old and have read and accepted our Terms and Conditions.

More information on These Trees Are Made of Blood can be found on the official site, Twitter and Facebook.

Review: Cabaret At Scarfes Bar, Rosewood London

From left to right: Laura London, Sammy Dineen, Dusty Limits, Valerie Murzak and Vicky Butterfly.Read more

Does London want more or less posh cabaret? More it seems. On every other Sunday between now and Christmas, Cabaret At Scarfes Bar will see the Rosewood London’s iconic watering hole turned into a den of refined iniquity.

Located deep in what estate agents refer to as Midtown, Scarfes Bar has a certain old school grandeur about it. It was once known as the East Banking Hall and the interiors are protected with Listed Building status. It’s the kind of place where at one time it may have seen well-moustachioed men walking around in plus-fours, possibly with a golf bag over one shoulder or perhaps a cocked shotgun under one arm and a dead grouse under the other. These days, it is adorned with the works of and named after satirical illustrator Gerald Scarfe and the clientele are more likely to be well-groomed hedge-funders busily sexting away or drinking with the latest conquest.

The bill of fare at Cabaret At Scarfes Bar is certainly not to be sniffed at. Leading the charge is the Brisbane-born Dusty Limits. The only person to walk off with two London Cabaret Awards for Best Host, his talents go beyond compèring. Armed with a three-and-a-half octave vocal range, he has starred in critically acclaimed solo shows Post Mortem and Darkling and is a veritable doyen of the London cabaret scene.

He’s joined here by other experienced hands. To one side, musical trio Tom Carradine, Tom Mansi and Jonathan Kitching provide live accompaniment to many of the routines. Laura London’s close-up magic is simple yet astounding. Sammy Dineen is the sexier-than-thou acrobat whose brazen upside-down striptease noticeably raises the temperature of the room and focuses the attention in this chatty atmosphere. Fellow circus artiste Valerie Murzak makes expert use of her lithe body and the bar’s limited performance space to twist, turn and tantalise.

Edinburgh Fringe favourite Lili La Scala (Another Fucking Variety Show, Siren) combines some so-so clowning with a cultured collection of chansons like Bei Mir Bistu Schein and Sous Les Ciels de Paris. And then there’s Vicky Butterfly, an elegant and energetic blaze of burlesque. Some may call it posh stripping but both her Idol of Perversity and The Swan Bride routines are thrilling, hypnotic affairs with costumes to die for.

Compared to La Scala, Limits’ song selections feel a little closer to home and, given the redolent Englishness of the venue, all the more relevant. Original number Reunion is a grand call to arms while Mad About The Boy and If Love Were All are stirring reminders of the power of Noël Coward, a man one could easily imagine pulling up a pew here back in his day. Limits’ cover of Amanda Palmer’s Coin-Operated Boy is possibly a leap too far for this audience – the various blank and bemused faces suggest that perhaps coins are not a form of currency they are au fait or comfortable with now or if they ever were.

There’s certainly little to fault on the casting front but the venue is a real challenge. Sightlines for about a third of the audience are often negligible, especially for those nearer to the external entrance. The long, thin layout of the performance space means that for those seated at either end, the night’s entertainment swings from feast to famine. During the performances, those chatting at the bar amongst themselves or with one of the performers create more unnecessary background buzz than Weimarean atmospherics and waiting staff bringing food and drink add to the noise and motion of the show. Too many of those sitting find themselves standing or craning their necks to see the all-too-brief moments of physical brilliance from Butterfly, Dineen and Murzak.

The obvious solution, it seems, would be to begin the quaffing early and bag a pew somewhere towards the centre of the room. This might be posh cabaret but the riches are not just not in the audience.

Performances of Cabaret at Scarfes Bar are scheduled for 2 November, 16 November, 30 November and 14 December 2014.

Cabaret At Scarfes Bar. Scarfes Bar, Rosewood London, London WC1V 7EN. £30. http://www.rosewoodhotels.com/en/london/dining/Scarfes-Bar/Cabaret-at-Scarfes-Bar

In Pictures: Burlesque On Ice

A non-stripping version of Burlesque On Ice was debuted at the grand opening of Stratford Westfield's ice rink last year.Read more
A non-stripping version of Burlesque On Ice was debuted at the grand opening of Westfield's ice rink in Shepherd's Bush last year.
A non-stripping version of Burlesque On Ice was debuted at the grand opening of Westfield’s ice rink last year in Shepherd’s Bush.

Next month sees the debut of Burlesque On Ice, a curious combination of skating and stripping which will take over Bush Hall for four nights. Featuring a blend of professional skaters and burlesquers, the impressive cast contains the likes of Vicky Butterfly, Joe Morose, Glorian Gray, Mia Merode and Ruby Deshabille.

Show producer and barrister Sam Jenkins (aka Scarlet Sparkle) was inspired by Miss Polly Rae to turn a skating fan dance into a full-blown show. Months later, Jenkins debuted the format last year with a non-stripping version of her concept for the grand opening of Westfield’s Ice Rink in Shepherd’s Bush. We’ll be speaking to the producer herself later this week but, in the meantime, here’s a sneaky peek of what will surely become one of the talking points of 2014.

If these pics have whet your appetite, tickets can be bought for Burlesque On Ice online through Seetickets.

All images: Tigz Rice