Another London Burlesque Week has ended, leaving in its wake a trail of glitter, feathers, confetti and other debris from dozens of acts. Whether you like your burlesque sexy, funny, fiery, messy or loud, you were sure to find it in one of the nine showcases of Chaz Royal’s World Burlesque Games. Crammed into seven busy evenings, the sixth edition of the festival was full of memorable moments.
Peggy de Lune won the British Newcomers contest with a singing striptease that sees the comic tackle Chicago, Illinois from Victor Victoria (the film, not the sex-crazed multi-instrumentalist hermaphrodite) not before, but during the dance. Unusual for the genre, Ms. de Lune brings a new flavour to burlesque with a routine full of tongue-in-cheek show business glitz. Watch that woman.
Irish rabble-rouser Big Chief Random Chaos and boylesque researcher British Heart terrified audiences at close quarters, taking their acts offstage. Were patrons more afraid of male nudity, or of the white sticky mess covering it? We may only find out once they’re done with their therapy. Between Kiki Kaboom telling off a punter for recording her pussy with a camera phone, shrapnel from the cinder block Monster of Schlock Burnaby Q. Orbax sledgehammered on his crotch and Hooray Henry (what happened to the “Higgins”?) dropping his long double torch downstage, the public was in for all sorts of dangerous encounters with their entertainers. But audience abuse is what cabaret is all about. Or is it?
Talented burlesquers show off their skills in myriad ways, but it takes an accomplished professional to deal with the unexpected onstage. Anna the Hulagan never dropped her flaming hoop when a nipple tassel fell off at Triple Crown on Tuesday, carrying on with the trick to very appreciative cheer (though it may as well just have been a reaction to the extra flesh). Likewise, Hungarian aerialist Melitta Honeycup kept the timing of both her lip-synching and her acrobatics despite a skipping backing track. A thrilling act, and a seamless performance if there’s ever been one.
This Is Cabaret extends its congratulations to all the performers involved, whether they walked away with an award or not. Chaz Royal’s international festival is not only a massively entertaining journey through burlesque in all its diversity, but also a top-ranking industry event for variety professionals. Previous participants have gone on to become established performers with advanced careers both domestically and abroad. Producers have already confirmed that London Burlesque Week 2013 will last ten days. Add to that an upcoming partnership with the Assembly venues to bring annual showcase Sexy Circus Sideshow to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August, and the result is an unprecedented expansion of the Canadian entrepreneur’s bump-and-grinding empire.
Beyond burlesque, last week also saw the premiere of 2012: an Olympic Vaudeville at Greenwich Theatre. Part musical, part mime, the show offered a satirical look at dreams of Olympic gold, conceived and performed by Leela Bunce and Matthew Floyd Jones (AKA Audacity Chutzpah and Mannish). Collectively signing as The Zeit Geists, the clown partnership will bring its vaudevillian odyssey back to the venue for two more dates in June.
On Thursday, a new venue joined the East London network of variety spaces that includes Bistrothèque, the Brickhouse and the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club. Vibe Bar on Brick Lane has gained a thorough refurbishment of its top floor, turning it into a box stage with a spotlight and a seating capacity of 135. International entrepreneurs Gosney and Kallman inaugurated the new location with When Worlds Collide, a new monthly show co-produced with Benjamin Louche and Miss Rose Thorne (The Double R Club). Boasting two compères, narrative skits and a chorus line, the innovative show attracted artists, producers, press and other VIPs for its debut engagement, as well as a captive audience who enjoyed its irreverent antics, despite the high room temperature. The venue is reportedly on its way to installing air conditioning – another innovation setting it apart from even the most established venues of London’s variety circuit, where throngs of sweating corseted belles and coifed dandies are sadly still a regular sight in the audience.
Cabaret is not an exclusively night-time affair. International collective Bacanal held the latest edition of its homonymous invitation-only “brunch club” at more-exclusive-than-thou Soho hotspot The Box on Saturday, with a bill featuring sideshow aerialist Chrisalys and transsexual performance artist Rose Wood. Their elegant and premium blend of finger food, extreme cabaret and hardcore raving left This Is Cabaret editor Franco Milazzo sweaty, tired, ready to collapse and eager for more – and all before 7 PM, too.