I don't usually write about things I don't enjoy, I'm not paid enough. I've sat near people in newspaper offices who are critics of one form or another - food, theatre, books - and have heard the unpleasantness that can proceed from that job. The threatening phone calls, the excrement sent in boxes, the occasional shiny black eye on the critic themselves. No thanks. If somebody wants my seal of approval they're welcome to ask for it, but I see no point condemning something if lack of interest means it will die anyway.
So this is a departure and I mention it because I shelled out £30, the biggest pleasure I and my companions had was sniggering about how bad it was and because in all probability it won't die, however long I hold my foot on its neck.
I went to see some really rubbish burlesque about a week ago, at a place called The Brickhouse on Brick Lane. Tea and burlesque, it was billed as, or carbs and corseted afternoon delight as we'd optimistically anticipated. Sadly, what we got was a teenage MC in fishnets who only knew one adjective - "beautiful" - no wit or talent on display, unless you count an anorexic looking keyboard player in a corset murdering Summertime - which is, let's face it, hard - a depressing lack of originality and the whole thing in an awkward venue that reminded me a bit of the inside of the London Assembly building. I suppose the problem was that it just wasn't sexy. I liked the big feathery wings on Cupid's Sister (who did some fire breathing and was the best thing about the show) but was unable to resist the thought that even her act would have been more entertaining if she'd accidentally set them on fire. Late on, when insurrection was taking hold, we actively discussed using the scones on the tea tray as missiles.
It was made even more disappointing, if that were possible, by the fact that my friends had seen something really good a few weeks previously: La Soiree at the South Bank. Here's a spot of pole dancing as you've never seen it before from that show to give you some idea what the competition was like. Note: he keeps his hat on all the way through, because that's how good he is. The Muse cover of Nina Simone's Feeling Good helps and I see that - gosh - the tickets are only £20.
Yesterday there was a piece in the Evening Standard about a new "fetish-burlesque" club called The Box in Soho where "high rollers pay around £1,000 a table", possibly even more after the full, enthusiastically disapproving spread on page three of the paper. It's disappointingly scant on details: there's a naked man in a pig mask being set alight by two women. One presumably to hold the matchbox, the other to call the Standard's picture desk. But even more impressively: a woman known as "Laqueefa played the tune of a popular song on her genitalia". I have no idea how one would do that but (1) Laqueefa must be from a large family where they had to make their own entertainment and (2) what song please? Did the reporter not recognise it, in which case how did he/she know it was popular? My money would be on a nice rousing version of John Barleycorn but I'm often wrong about these things.
Burlesque has been edging in on the folk scene for a couple of years now. It was the title of Bellowhead's first album, the Belles of London City have coopted stuff from it to become the most widely celebrated morris dancers in the country and up-and-coming folkies Urusen were at The Old Blue Last on Thursday supporting a band called Tu Fawning who were from Oregon and whose sound and customised, elongated trumpet I associated with Archaos, the chainsaw juggling circus troupe. It's everywhere and it's getting bigger.
I'd certainly pay £30 to hear Laqueefa's rendition of John Barleycorn, or whatever. In fact, I'd probably pay £30 to see someone do that trick with nipple tassles where they make them go around in opposite directions: I think it's what I was secretly hoping for from the Brick Lane excursion and have been ever since seeing Gypsy as a child.
But what I'd really like is some way of discerning which of these shows is any good since there are so many firing up around London at the moment and some of them, inevitably, are just jumping on the wagon, using the reasoning that sticking the word "burlesque" on the bill will pull in the punters. Surely there must be a website with cabaret listings or an expert of some kind to whom one can turn? Time Out's not doing the job...
Consider this a cri du coeur. With pasties.
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