This was a complete leap into the Unknown. What would “The Burlesque Show” involve? The theatre’s website promised us a top magician and an exotic dancer. Well we certainly got them, and a whole lot more. So what is Burlesque? Well, from having seen just one evening’s entertainment, it’s largely old-fashioned variety with some titillation thrown in for good measure. But it also seems to have some retro style, and judging from the audience, seems to appeal to women more than men. Doing a bit of online research it looks like it’s a growing cult entertainment, with a considerable following. Well it’s never crossed my path before, but then I have led a sheltered life.
Anyway the good burghers of Northampton know their Burlesque as the Royal was packed again and the audience were in an extremely good mood! Our hostess was Kiki Kaboom (it didn’t take me long to realise some of these performers work under a Nom-de-Burlesque). She is a bright funny lady who got us warmed up with her rendition of “I’m a little girl from Maidstone”. She had great interaction with the audience and kept the whole evening going at a good pace and with an endearing warmth.
One aspect of a burlesque evening seems to be that you get attractive young ladies taking the majority (but not all) of their clothes off. Far be it from me to judge which of Elle Amour, Kittie Klaw and Dani California did it best; but they were all entertaining, stylish, and performed with coquettish humour. I particularly enjoyed La Klaw’s battle against a seemingly endless supply of spiders nestling about her body, which (of course) required the removal of clothing to get rid of them. Elle Amour did two routines, the second of which was particularly edifying as it involved quite a lot of bottom shaking. The interesting thing was how the whole thing really was done “in the best possible taste”.
It wasn’t all titillation though. There were some really funny and entertaining variety acts too. For example, we had Mat Ricardo. He’s a juggler – incredibly skilful, with very funny patter, a likeable personality; and he did two routines, both of which were ace.
Then there was Elliot Mason, a singer of comedy songs about the most unlikely subjects. Two of his really funny songs were about corporate rebranding and the delight in finding sufficient washing up liquid left on the sponge in order to wash the cup that was left out of the dishwasher. He has a great attacking style and involves the audience so that it’s impossible to resist singing along with his ridiculous songs, even though you can’t. Great fun.
We had the singer, Dolores Delight, who really came into her own with her second half number, Moon River, performed alongside the most massive balloon you’ve ever seen (hot air balloons excluded). The balloon took on the appearance of the moon and it was a really charming performance.
You couldn’t get more different from Dolores to Fancy Chance, who had two thoroughly memorable routines. In the first half she did a perfect parody of Prince (the “Squiggle” singer), in what I guess is the absolute true spirit of Burlesque. It was amazingly funny. Her second half performance was an homage to North Korea, which quite simply involved a bit of everything. It was just extraordinary!
Top of the bill – in a sense – was the magician Paul Zenon, who did two excellent tricks; one which Mrs Chrisparkle says she has seen before (I don’t know who she was with because it was new to me), where he spun a full pint of Newcastle Brown around and around while it was perched inside a snooker triangle. Fantastic stuff. Even more effective was another routine where he invited a gentleman up from the audience who was wearing a smart jacket, got him to remove said jacket, whence he proceeded to stab a hole in the back of the jacket and pull endless bits of lining out of the hole he had made, right in front of the poor jacket owner’s nose, then only to present the jacket back unharmed. We spoke to the jacket’s owner on the way out – he said that although he was within inches of the trick being performed he had no idea how Paul Zenon had done it.
One final act was Jim Devereaux; he starts off being a stagehand and ends up being an Elvis impersonator. He was brilliant! I’m not a great Elvis fan but he did his very best songs and it worked extremely well. Would you believe he is the grandson of Ed Devereaux of Skippy fame? Now there’s quality.
This is not in any way meant as a pejorative comment – quite the reverse – but I found the entire show to be the absolutely best “End of the Pier” night you could possibly imagine; or alternatively, the tip-top in cruise entertainment. If you’ve ever been on a cruise ship and seen really really good variety, you’ll appreciate just how excellent this show was.
The only thing that slightly confused me was the advisory age restriction notices placed outside the theatre. Not recommended for the under 16s. 16??? All you saw was one nipple and even that was due to a wardrobe misfunction. The language was milder than most other comedy acts we have seen. By contrast, when I was 13 I saw “Birds of Paradise” at the Garrick Theatre, where Miss Moira Lister was in charge of five rather lovely young working girls, who went topless for the majority of the second act. No one raised an eyebrow at the sight of a 13-year-old in the front row. The only raising was done by the 13-year-old in question. I do feel the age restriction for the Burlesque Show was misplaced and unnecessary.
Nevertheless, it was a really terrific night’s entertainment, which went down a complete storm with the audience. I definitely hope this becomes a regular feature; the Royal is the perfect environment for this sophisticated variety show.