The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2018 – Yummy, 22nd August 2018

YummyNext is a show that’s had great reviews down under, and I’m sure will be a breath of fresh air. It’s Yummy, at Central @ Assembly Roxy, at 21:40 on Wednesday 22nd. Here’s the blurb: “Yummy, the Melbourne powerhouse of drag, dance, circus, and music, has been serving smash-hit events in numerous festivals across Australia and beyond. Yummy is the winner of Best Production and Best Ensemble (Cabaret) at the 2018 Greenroom Awards and Best Cabaret at Adelaide Fringe Weekly Awards 2018. This critically acclaimed show is directed by James Welsby and features an all-star cast: Karen From Finance, Valerie Hex, Jandruze, Zelia Rose, Hannie Helsden and Benjamin Hancock. Described as ‘a must-see’ ***** (Advertiser, Adelaide, 2018), Yummy is an absurd, fascinating, and outrageous experience.”

By the sound of it, this isn’t going to be full of shy and retiring types – I predict a riot! Check back around 11pm to see how much we enjoyed it. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.

Yummy is a sensationally colourful and vibrant show, with terrific performers and a huge sense of fun. I particularly enjoyed the girl with the hula hoops! My only criticism is that after a while it becomes just a little samey, I’d have loved a few more comedy numbers or speciality acts. Nevertheless, highly enjoyable!

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2018 – Danger Strip Show, 21st August 2018

Danger Strip ShowOur last show of the day could either be fantastic (in a naughty way) or dire. It’s Danger Strip Show, at Piccolo, Assembly George Square Gardens, at midnight on the night of Tuesday 21st. This is the blurb: “The most jaw-dropping, mind-popping, eye-watering experience of this year’s Fringe! With unbridled attitude, this firecracker of a show performs death defying stunts while honouring the world’s oldest artform (striptease) for your entertainment. Risk ass-essment required! Presented by Chaz Royal and The London Burlesque Festival.”

It ought to be superb, but the first time we came to Edinburgh we saw the Chaz Royal Best of Burlesque show and it was the worst burlesque I’ve ever seen! Five years on, we’re giving them the benefit of the doubt – and I am curious to see how they combine the danger aspect with the striptease! Check back around 1.30 am (or maybe tomorrow morning!) to see if we managed to stick with it. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.

A very satisfying mix of burlesque and the more dangerous circus skills, like fire eating, glass eating, and sticking pins through your skin. Presented with humour and chutzpah, and a very enjoyable way to round off the day.

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2018 – Lolly Jones: Fifty Shades of May, 21st August 2018

Lolly JonesIn these troubled times we can’t have too much political satire and I’m hoping this show is going to overflow with it. It’s Lolly Jones: Fifty Shades of May Downstairs @ Assembly Roxy, at 20:50 on Tuesday 21st. Let’s see what the blurb has to say: “Lolly (BBC Three/Comedy Central) lampoons political figures in this character comedy/burlesque hybrid show. As Theresa May, she will taunt and tease in Brussels and in fields of wheat. Featuring footage of Liam Hourican as Jacob Rees-Mogg (Murder in Successville/Tracey Ullman’s Show). It’s Downing Street on poppers, with a P45, suspenders, and a chunky metal necklace! Also featuring Lolly as Angela Eagle, Arlene Foster (DUP) and as a saucy Nicola Sturgeon. ‘A blast to spend an hour with’ (Scotsman). Top 10 Best Shows of 2017 (Funny Women Awards).”

I’ve never heard of Lolly Jones but her awkward burlesque promo photograph was all I needed to give this show a chance – I reckon it will be either equally awkward or absolutely sensational. Check back around 9.15 pm to see how great (or otherwise) she was. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.

Hilarious and inventive mix of satire and burlesque. Where else will you find the Prime Minister pleasuring herself with an EU flag? Escapist nonsense that makes the world of politics look not quite so terrifying!

Review – The Burlesque Show, Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 26th January 2018

Burlesque ShowIt’s always a pleasure to welcome back those boffins from the Ministry of Burlesque, the sexiest civil servants on two legs. Once a year they administrate their way into the Royal Theatre with a superb selection of comedy, magic and general allure and, for a couple of hours, one’s humdrum day to day life is transported to a world where everything is beautiful. Yes, even for half an hour or so on a Friday evening, you can think of magician Pete Firman as beautiful. At a stretch.

Marlene CheaptrickHaving enjoyed the sultry pleasures of Miss Lili la Scala hosting last year, this year we were commèred by die schöne Marlene Cheaptrick, also known as the one and only Abigail Collins from Dagenham. Frau Cheaptrick wove a spell of pure Germanic enchantment as she guided us through her box of Teutonic delights. A highlight as always with Abi Collins was her interaction with members of the audience; on Friday night it was young Jamie who got a little hot under the collar as he sat on the stage with Frau Cheaptrick’s kleine Vergnügungsscheide upside down in his face. But he was a gentleman and did not take advantage of her vulnerability, which was just as well as his mum and dad were watching. She also did her manic and fantastic hula hoop act, in which no items of savoury confectionary were harmed. Assisting the lovely Marlene was Mia Merode, whom we have seen on the very same stage performing some stunning Burlesque, here in the slightly less glamorous (but nonetheless vital) role of preparing the stage for the next act. When acts drop feathers, wine, underwear, blood, sweat and tears during the performance of their routines, you can understand how important it is to have someone responsible to clean up; and she does it beautifully.

Mia MerodeAll the acts appeared twice, once in the first half and once in the second. The Dramatis Personae was almost exactly the same as last year, not that it mattered; this year’s show was notable for the way it really stepped up the humour. Mrs Chrisparkle and I were basically roaring with laughter all the way from start to finish apart from when it was unseemly to do so in front of naked flesh.

lena-maeWe met the delectable Lena Mae, who first appeared covered in a costume made of balloons. These were never going to last, particularly as she also produced a carrot with a prick on the end. A few pricks later and the balloons had burst to reveal her hidden charms. In her second appearance she did a superb, traditional fan dance in an example of pure, classic Burlesque; a fabulous combination of the elegant and the provocative.

Robin DaleThen we met Robin Dale, whom we also saw last year, performing an incredible juggling and balancing act with an open bottle of wine and a couple of glasses. Mr Dale was standing on a table, wine glass on his forehead, another glass in one hand and bottle in the other, ready to bring to life the human wine equivalent of a chocolate fountain, when a woman in the balcony shouted out “Hey Baby!” which almost made him teeter off the top. But he held on and managed it perfectly, so kudos to him. When, in the second half, he is joined by his partner in juggling crime, I still haven’t quite worked out why Mr Dale suddenly becomes one half of Boon and Bailie; but there you are, that’s showbiz I guess. Once again the dapper twosome performed dextrous feats of juggling and balancing whilst slowly removing all their (and each other’s) clobber. They left their hats on, in the best Tom Jones style, but this time Mr Dale’s thong didn’t twang into the audience which must be of some mercy.

Hot PotatoesNext was a new act – hurrah – the Hot Potato Syncopators! Three elegant 1920s toffs who dish out the raciest, paciest tunes of their day by means of ukulele, a single piece of string tied to a stick of wood, and a saw. They’re dynamite! Huge fun, they really recreate the era with their monocles, plummy accents and inspired choice of music. Decadence on a shoestring, we loved it.

Pete FirmanOnce again we had the welcome return of magician Pete Firman, and precisely the same three tricks that he performed last year – the ever-growing numbers of cards in the pack, the cutting-a-rope trick, and the signed £20 note revealed zipped up in his wallet. I think I’ve seen these tricks maybe six times now, and I still haven’t got a scooby as to how he does them. As always, his gift of the gab is hilarious, and he really is the most entertaining magician, as he mercilessly rips the p*** out of his audience victims who just love it. This time he had the spangly-dressed Claire on stage to help with the rope trick, with Steve on the £20 notes and Roly on the monkey nuts. Very funny, very intriguing, very clever. I could watch him all night.

Betty Blue EyesWe were also treated to two divine and hilarious Burlesque routines from the incredible Miss Betty Blue Eyes. One was a stunningly beautiful appearance in blue which included an arrival in a spaceship, but my favourite was an homage to Liberace where, clad (or otherwise) in the black and white of a piano keyboard, she tucked herself in at a tiny toy piano to play chopsticks. Unsurprisingly, with such a mini stool to perch on, it took Ms Blue Eyes several attempts to get herself comfy, but she pulled it off. You can’t get better than Ms Blue Eyes for milking the humour out of traditional Burlesque!

Alexandra HofgartnerOur final act was the elegant and Berlinesque Alexandra Hofgartner, whom we have seen here many times before, performing her daring aerial acrobatics with just the aid of two strips of material and some womanly muscle. It’s a circus/variety skill but carried out with true Burlesque style. The audience loved it, as always.

boon-and-bailieThus drew another Burlesque Show to its conclusion; it’s always a feast for the eyes and a tonic for your laughter organs. This was a particularly funny reincarnation of the show and everyone was on magnificent form. Can’t wait for next year’s!

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2017 – Late’n’Live, 26th August 2017

LatenliveOur very last show in Edinburgh this year is Late’n’Live at the Debating Hall @ Gilded Balloon Teviot at 01:00 in the early hours of the morning of Sunday 27th. Let’s read that last blurb: “’Still the best late night show on the Fringe’ (Scotsman) is back for its 31st year! Different shows every night, but always the same recipe: one hilarious compere, four amazing acts, one incredible band, two hours of dancing and a whole lot of fun… Leave to simmer from 1am–5am and you’ve got yourself ‘the celebrated comedy abattoir that has slain a thousand comics’ (Scotsman). Comperes will include Scott Gibson, John Hastings and many other top names.”

I really can’t see us staying up till 5am. However, I’m sure some people will! We’ll just stay for the one hilarious compere and four amazing acts, whoever they are. Check back sometime after 3 am (or preferably on Sunday morning, or later) to see whether we survived.

If you’ve been following our reckless pursuit of entertainment over the past eight days, thanks very much for your loyalty! If not, I can’t blame you. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible!

And we fell at the final hurdle. We already thought that this was going to be A Show Too Far, and so it proved. So rather than watching this show, we’ve treated ourselves to a bottle of shiraz in the hotel bar. Rather a quiet way to end our Fringe week, but the quality has been outstanding. Hope you had fun too!

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2017 – Sweatshop, 24th August 2017

SweatshopAnd now, as they used to say, it’s time for something completely different. It’s Sweatshop at Palais du Variete @ Assembly George Square Gardens at 22:00 on Thursday 24th. Here’s the blurb: “Briefs Factory present a late-night extravaganza, Sweatshop, hosted by the impeccably coiffed master crooner Mikelangelo. Grab yourself a knock-off drink and clock into the Sweatshop. Experience the production line of cabaret, circus and party tricks manufactured in difficult and dangerous working conditions before your eyes, featuring the Briefs Factory workers. This is a sweaty, uncompromising performance, brought to you by the team that brought you Briefs and Hot Brown Honey. Violate your senses. Dance it out.”

mikelangeloI’m expecting “extreme”. Extreme comedy, extreme circus, extreme burlesque. Apart from that, your guess is as good as mine. I’ve seen some of Mikelangelo’s videos on Youtube, and I confess I’m a little worried. Check back around 11.30 pm to see if my concerns were justified. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.

Some of the audience reviews for this show were negative and said this was tasteless. I can only say, they didn’t get the joke. I thought this was a brilliant array of acts, including the gorgeous Lada Redstar who brought politics into burlesque in a way I had not expected. There was also a hilarious hoop act to the soundtrack of Popcorn  – and there’s a good reason for that – the chicken demolishing Gingzilla and the unforgettable Betty Grumble. She’s not called International Sex Clown for nothing, and she displays a lack of inhibition that’s second to none!

Review – The Burlesque Show, Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 14th January 2017

Burlesque ShowOnce again, the Ministry of Burlesque have trundled into town bringing their collection of stunning costumes, jugglers balls, magic tricks and nipple tassels. We’ve been coming every year since 2011 and it’s always a sheer delight. Last year’s show was just a tad of a disappointment as there were so many acts giving us the same sheer delight that they had given us in previous years. That equates to sheer delight for newbies, and pleasurable reminders for us old hands.

Lili La SHowever, this year they rang the changes in true style. The biggest and brightest change was in the beguiling personage of our new host, Miss Lili la Scala. Mrs Chrisparkle and I have seen Lili once before, in Edinburgh last summer, where we decided to partake of one of her Another F*cking Variety Shows, a late night cabaret entertainment where Lili introduces us to a range of artistes plying their trade at the Fringe; and it really was a splendid show. For the Burlesque Show, she looked perfect in the elegant setting of the Royal Theatre, entertaining us with songs old and new. Mashing up two different Let Me Entertain Yous is an inspired way to start a show; I really love how Lili retros a modern song into a cabaret setting. In Edinburgh she gave us a moving but refreshing Space Oddity; in this show we enjoyed her semi-operatic version of Female of the Species. She has a winning combination of demure and daft which makes her quite irresistible in many ways; what the late Dowager Mrs Chrisparkle would have called Strictly a Female Female.

lena-maeStarting the show, and finishing us off, so to speak, was the delectable Miss Lena Mae with two classic Burlesque strip routines, full of allure, humour, teasing, and costumes with surprises of their own. We hadn’t had the pleasure of her company before and clearly it’s been long overdue. She conveys all the joy of what she’s doing out into the auditorium and we love her back for it in return. Classy, sophisticated and with more than a twinkle in her eye. We also had two (well two and a half really) delicious helpings of Miss Abigail Collins; Peggy Suedfirst in her guise as Miss Garden Verandah, where, in a floral-inspired outfit, she performs her amazing hoop act, and secondly as Miss Peggy Sued, who spent the interval in the bar introducing herself to unsuspecting punters (well, draping herself across them) and then came out and did her extraordinary balancing act. It’s unlike any other you’ve seen – basically she picks on two blokes and then does the splits whilst balancing on their shoulders. Well done Gary and Steve for your sterling effort. It was lovely to see Miss Sued back cavorting on stage, pulling her leotard here and there to prevent it from chafing her personal areas, singing and dancing like there’s no tomorrow.

Alexandra HofgartnerMore acrobatics – of the slightly more traditional kind – were provided by frequent visitor Miss Alexandra Hofgartner, effortlessly weaving herself in and out of a hoop in the sky with only a long chiffon for extra support. Miss Hofgartner exudes dignity with everything she does and is always a wonderful addition to any Burlesque show. Another new face to us, Robin Dale, gave us an intriguing juggling act with wine glasses (sometimes filled with “real” wine),boon-and-bailie then came back in the second half with his friend Jack Bailie to perform further feats of juggling whilst they both took their clothes off. Fortunately, protective top hats were at the ready to prevent anyone in the audience from having a stroke. A very funny act, but be careful where you sit, or else you might get Robin’s thong flung in your face.

Pete FirmanAnd you can never get too much Pete Firman. We’ve seen him perform his magic many times and on each occasion he perplexes me. Just a few tricks for this show – the cards that magically keep increasing in number, the rope that gets cut in two and somehow self-heals, and the £20 note taken from a member of the audience that disappears and is found, not in a monkey-nut but sealed inside his zipped wallet. I specifically watched him like a hawk during that last trick because I was determined not to take my eye off where I think the note was kept during most of the act. Fat lot of use that was; although I think I may be one stage closer to working it out. Just maybe. The audience proved something of a handful for Mr Firman, though. His choice of assistant for the rope trick was Pat in the front row. Would she get up and help him? Would she buffalo. But Mr F was not in the mood for picking on someone else. Resistance was futile. When she finally got up, after much persuasion, she had no need for alarm, it all went swimmingly well. Would the same thing happen with the £20 note trick? Mr F’s victim was the shy and retiring Phil – not! If ever a magician’s assistant gave as good as he got, it was our Phil. I think I actually saw Mr F – temporarily – stumped for a response. I guess that’s always going to be a risk when you call on bright sparks from the audience.

And, as an audience, we really were fired up by the whole show, from start to finish. Our willingness to get stuck in and react noisily to whatever shenanigans was happening on stage, helped this particular instalment of the Burlesque Show to be (probably) the most enjoyable I’ve ever seen. We even miaowed incessantly at Stage Manager/Producer Miss Kittie Klaw as she cleared the stage ready for each new act. She responded with some miaows back and the occasional bum-wiggle. Every act really performed their socks off (literally in a few cases) and it was a very funny and sexy night’s entertainment. Fantastically well done to one and all!