Thursday, August 26, 2010

An Evening of Burlesque, Central Theatre

Jane Connolly takes in An Evening of Burlesque at Chatham’s Central Theatre

KENT NEWS: AS a newcomer to the burlesque scene, I had no idea what to expect from Polly Rae and friends.
I took along a female friend to see An Evening of Burlesque, as I had the distinct feeling it was something I’d rather see with another woman and I’m glad that I did. Because although the show was easy on the eye for the male members of the audience – who were definitely in the minority, I would say – I feel that it had a lot to offer the ladies too.

Burlesque performers often insist that the art is no longer strictly about the enjoyment of the men watching, but that it actually offers some form of empowerment to the ladies on stage. I confess to feeling a little sceptical about that before but, based on this show in Chatham, I could see what they meant.

Because it didn’t seem sleazy or seedy – in fact, it was rather charming and lovely. Yes, the ladies strip down to their extremely skimpy underwear, with just a few well-placed sequins and tassels preserving their modesty. But it really is done, to quote Kenny Everett, in the best possible taste.

Not only were the acts fun and witty, but some were actually beautiful and rather moving, which is rather an achievement.

Fortunately our hostess, local girl Kiki Kaboom, was on hand to guide us through the etiquette of a burlesque show, which basically involved ooh-ing, aah-ing and cheering for more. The audience was game for a laugh and the atmosphere was already a warm one when the first act took to the stage.

From the rather raucous Hot Cake Kitty to the coquettish charm of Slinky Sparkles, the girls came in all shapes and sizes. Teaming fantastic costumes, hair and make-up with performances that oozed attitude and confidence, these girls seem to transport us back to a classier, more elegant time.

The first act was brought to a close with a stunning performance by Veronica Valentine, whose evident skill as a dancer was beautifully demonstrated during the elegant and rather moving feather dance. She returned later on with a very different turn as a she-devil, a perfect example of the breadth of tone to be found in this highly entertaining show.

The two non-burlesque acts on the bill were Piff the Magic Dragon, a deadpan comic whose sagging costume made his ‘bad magician’ act even more amusing, and Kalki Hula Girl. From the moment she began her jaw-dropping act, Kalki had the audience in the palm of her hand and entertained with her physical comedy as well as her superhuman hula skills.

The headline act was renowned burlesque artist Polly Rae and she did not disappoint. Looking stunning in an incredible fishtail dress, she managed to combine a few coarse gags with remarkable elegance and finished the show with a very classy routine.

As the audience made its way out, I could imagine that most of the women would be secretly practising their bump and grind moves in front of the mirror that night.

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