London Burlesque Week Opening Gala

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I attended  Around the World in 80 Minutes, the opening gala of London Burlesque Week, held on the HMS President, a historic ship docked along the Thames river. Burlesque Week, held the last week of April, was an entire week’s worth of burlesque, boylesque (male burlesque) and cabaret performances taking place in various venues around London, starring acts from around the world and the United Kingdom.

During the press meet and greet, the delightful Eliza Delite of Leicester graced me with a short interview on the deck. Eliza has been working on a documentary film about the burlesque scene in London for the past year or so. “I wanted to show everyone that we’re regular people and that anyone can do this,” said Eliza when asked about the film’s purpose. “I’m interested in what people’s families think, and so on.” I asked Eliza about her family’s opinions. “My mum is totally excited now, though she took a while to warm up to it. My dad doesn’t say much about it all.” Have they been to see your show? “My mum is coming to see me this week for the first time on British Bombshells night, but I just couldn’t invite my dad,” she laughed. “I think that might be going a bit too far!”

Miss Apple Tart, a blonde beauty in a Moulin Rouge-inspired black and white can-can ensemble, told me about her act, scheduled on Newcomer Night, while Ecuador Zaha, magician and boylesk performer, shuffled cards in a flashy purple suit and grinned at us behind a Dali-esque moustache. “It’s called Sharlies Chaplin, and it’s a cross-dressing act. I start off dressed as Charlie Chaplin and do a routine based on his silent films, then I reveal myself to be a girl and things get sexy from there,” she chuckled.

During the show, I sat with cabaret legend Holly Penfield, spoken word performer and journalist Sasha Selavie, and Miss Apple Tart. The performances were preceded by an oddly brief lingerie show from Secrets In Lace, the sponsors of the night. There only seemed to be three or four different pieces of lingerie available in the collection, though the lingerie had a certain 1950’s charm. “I was expecting a lingerie extravaganza!” exclaimed Sasha, and I had to agree. Where were the secrets in lace promised to us?

The night was hosted by Miss Ivy Paige. She spent most of the time trying to get the audience to make more noise, a tactic which often seems like a time-filler. If you want the audience to show enthusiasm, spend more time trying to entertain rather than haranguing them for applause. Give them something to shout and whistle about, and it will come.

The sexiest performances of the night were from Loulou D’Vil of Finland and Marianne Cheesecake of Toronto, Canada. Loulou, a raven-haired stunner with a sweet Bettie Page face, did her Old Hollywood act which would have done any busty 1950’s starlet proud. Marianne channelled silent screen goddess Anna May Wong. They were both incredibly beautiful women, whose routines displayed genuine grace, sensuality and dancing talent. The spotlights of old Hollywood flashed upon the Thames for a short while.

The most interesting act of the evening was from Pinky and Lennart of Amsterdam. The act, entitled Wet Dream, was meant to represent the Pacific Ocean, but was actually a sort of absurdist play involving a giant shark, a giant fish, and a very small woman. It made absolutely no sense and there was no nudity involved as far as I could see, though it was difficult to see the lower part of the stage — the venue didn’t have raised seating. I suppose it’s possible that Pinky and Lennart were nude from the waist down.

I ended the evening with a late supper in Soho with Holly and Sasha, then talking quietly over drinks at a private club about life, people, and love. A fitting end to a very glamourous night in glittery, gritty London.

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