What does burlesque mean to you? Over-the-hill broads-and boys-in thrift shop drag? Once, baby, but not today! Maybe fired by the exquisite, penetrative persuasions of gay author Sarah Waters’ Tipping The Velvet and the lady-lickin’ charms of Immodesty Blaize, modern burlesque is bursting out of G-strings and cod-pieces worldwide!

A good thing? Generally, yes; the garbage sinks with popped egos within minutes of real stage exposure. But like always, the thick, seminal cream of the crop squirts onwards and upwards, especially in promoter Chaz Royale’s annual Burlesque extravaganzas, and more outré ventures like his Forbidden Cabarets at Madame JoJo’s.

Okay, in the UK, he’s not exactly ploughing previously barren soil – the roots of drag and burlesque go back centuries to the Commedia del’Art and Shakespearian boy-actors playing girls but arguably, the comic side hit its apex with Victorian and Edwardian stars Mrs Bellamy, Vesta Tilley and Julian Eltinge. Sadly, it then declined to static, World War Two tableaux vivant shows, like Soldiers In Skirts, with our beefy boys earnestly earning civilian gratitude by flashing their panties en masse (!).


Still, that’s Brits for you – anything to flip out enemy invaders. Mercifully, by modern times, drag and burlesque benefitted immeasurably from actual talent, not to mention high-glam, Jayne Mansfield options like boob and fashionably petite nose-jobs, some verging on the Phantom Of The Opera meets Michael Jackson.

Since then, however, sanity’s prevailed, and neo-burlesque – circa 2005 onwards – is a mutant crush-mix of Rio de Janeiro carnival, performance art, bump ‘n’ grind, punk rock and Noel Coward! A fabulously democratic X Factor with more raw sex than J-Lo’s butt, it’s a self-organised, performance torrent Simon Cowell never had a hope of tapping!

So, let’s peek behind that chiffon curtain, and gaze upon the bashfully exposed delight of M’sieur Royale’s imminent disclosures. May 7th revels in a VIP launch at Madame Jojo’s, followed by May 8th’s press gala at Floridita’s, and May 9th’s Twisted Circus, a celebration of performance art, again at Madame Jojo’s. May 10th sees the joint coronation of the British and World male performers at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, with Bush Hall hosting the honours for newbies on May 11th, and for female vamps on the 12th. Finally, there’s May 13th’s closing gala at Madame Jojo’s, proving once again that the dear old UK – perhaps led by the Holy Trinity of Vivienne Westwood, David Hoyle and Daphne Guinness – still punches way above its weight with madcap excess!


• 7th-13th May 2012 



And now – in a change of pace – guest writer Tom Redkid reviews Chaz Royale’s ‘World Burlesque Games’ last Friday at the King’s Cross Scala, yet another monument to era-defining eroticism…

Festoons of feathers were flying as fans were treated to more than just a tease and tickle at Scala in King Cross for the World Burlesque Games organized by the inimitable impresario Chaz Royal.

His kingship, puppy firmly ensconced in arms, put on this teaser event to wet our appetites for the upcoming London Burlesque Festival to be held 7th-13th May at various locations (see main text).

Friday night’s flesh-fest showcased some of the best neo-burlesque variety acts on offer.

Pushing the boundaries of the art of striptease taking us on a twisted delicious thrill ride of sultry fan dancers and evil clowns, they had the audience squirming with fear and whooping with delight!

Hosted by naughty compere Duke De Milo, we were treated to a night of debauchery fine tuned to something not quite porn but just next to nasty.

An evening of Coquettish ladies turned femmes fatale and a couple of devilishly cad lads thrown in, we were mesmerized by the fire blazing hula hoops of Anna Hulagan swirling amongst the glitter of eclectic troupe The Late Night Shop.

Corsets and stilettos shimmied their way across the stage as Boylesque to Girlesque and everything in between yanked us out of our comfort zones into a new age of cabaret.

Highlights included getting shocked out of our socks by scintillating sex-change artist Mr. Mistress and cheering at the savvy chic of singer-cum-stripper Rubyyy Jones.

“Neo-burlesque should always be on the brink; never passé,” piped up one Ms. Persephone Rex, nee, Francesca Balchin, soon to be Doctor Balchin to you mugs. When not titillating audiences with her own brand of high glamour sex kitten, Ms. Rex is turning her stage experience into a PhD. A PhD in burlesque? Whoda thunk it!

By the end of this circus of decadent delights, this lusty carnival had the packed house sweating in the aisles panting for more!

This is definitely not your grandfather’s burlesque!

If this was just the  “teaser” I cannot wait for the big show in May!


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