Ever since I met my good friend and former work colleague Davina Page (aka Miss Amarettease) she has been saying that I must go to see a Burlesque show.
Well, on Saturday night, I took the plunge - Margaret and I went to a night of Burlesque at the Key Theatre.
Margaret wasn't keen, she thought it would be full of dirty old men in raincoats, but that was far from the case. The audience was mainly women (including a hen night), lots of people were dressed up with feather boas and the like, and the men that were there were all with partners.
Burlesque, or this show at least, was more like music hall than a strip club.
It was a fairly low-budget show, there was no band (all the music was recorded), no scenery and only a few acts, but the acts that were there were good quality and they worked hard with most doing a couple of slots.
The night was hosted by a comedienne/singer called Sarah Louise Young. She was very good, engaging the audience immediately, she was a bit cheeky to us and quickly found a couple of people who would play along with her. She identified the hen night crowd, discovered that the 'hen' was pregnant and managed not to be too judgmental. She kept a comedy commentary going, interspersed with songs, including some by Tom Lehrer and some original material. She had a really good French character she had created - a woman singer who was friends with Edith Piaf, but Piaf had done the dirty on her, so she had come to England. It was quite a good act and gave her the chance to sing a couple more songs.
The burlesque side of the show was done by two performers - Betty Blue Eyes and Luna Rosa. Davina said that Luna Rosa was one of the top burlesque dancers in the UK. Betty Blue Eyes started the show by doing a reverse strip, where she started off almost naked and then got dressed. It was a neat act with some clever costume design. In one move she put on a dressing down and when she took it off she was wearing a dress. She also did a routine where she paid tribute to Liberace, which included a very small piano.
Betty Blue Eyes was cheeky comedy, Luna Rosa was full on exotic dancer. Her first routine saw her festooned with pheasant feathers and the second was a sort of Egyptian, Cleopatra-inspired number. Luna has an amazing figure, but is covered with tattoos. Davina says that's very common.
The variety/cabaret acts were two magicians called Morgan & West, a mouth juggler called Rod Laver and a novelty act with electricity called The Great Voltini and Nurse Electra.
The mouth juggler spat and caught ping-pong balls and he was very good - Margaret thought he was hilarious and there's a video which gives a flavour of his act here.
The Great Voltini was something else (as they say). His act was out of the Victorian circus sideshow and involved high-voltage electricity, which would jump across electrodes. He used his body and his assistant's (his wife) as electrodes. They could illuminate fluorescent tubes just by holding them and ignite fuel soaked rags from a spark. The person acting as the electrode stood on a plastic platform so they were insulated.
It started to get a bit weird when Nurse Electra whipped out her left breast, which was pierced with a nipple ring, and used that to create a spark to light a flaming torch; it got really weird when Voltini shoved an electrode up his bum so you could see the spark jumping across. You have been warned, but you can see their act on video here.
We'd go to burlesque again - it was good fun. Perhaps the audience needed to be a little more responsive (a few more oohs! when clothes were removed) but everyone had a good time and the Key was packed.