Thursday, October 09, 2008

Sentosa

Early indications are that online searches for any of the named performers will land searchers here. Thus:

Note to first-time visitors: Welcome! You may find some of the performer and photographer links (below) to be useful.

Note re photographs: None are my own, and none were taken at the Scarlet Fever Burlesque show at The Leopard, Burslem, on Saturday 4th October 2008 (the event to which the post relates). However, the images show some of the performers who we bore witness to (and of whom images were most easily located). I have copied, pasted and credited (as far as was possible) from publically available online sources. If any of the images are your's and you'd rather they be removed or differently credited, then let it be known (in comments, below).

So, to The Leopard, Burslem, for an evening of burlesque.



It was interesting to overhear someone comment that they'd briefly crossed paths with Sentosa Sparkle at a series of burlesque workshops a couple of years ago. In this comment, there was the shape of a green-eyed monster, for Sentosa did sparkle. She really did, oh how she did. In fact... actually no, no, I will keep this mild - not wild, neat, sweet and rather discreet. But my, oh my. Sentosa's first routine adhered to a fairly straight forward cheerleader format - you know, the loss of a red dress, a couple of carefully located pom-poms, and a gilt-edged look that provoked guilt-edged daydreaming.

Photo: Candee Photography

Given the composite performance that Ms Sparkle did present, it seems incongruous that she could be a relatively novice performer. Yet, online searches suggest that that is how it is. If you're within a hop, step and jump of Manchester, then this may be of interest. From where do these performer people emerge?...

A matter of little concern, I'm sure, to Miss Ditzy Diamond - one of several of the performers who had a familiar air to them - the sort of people who you think you might have seen in a music video, or at Boots the Chemist, or somewhere in between. Ms DD delivered a performance which was light, airy, and enormously popular - there were shades of Marilyn Monroe in there, too. And unless I was much mistaken - it has been known, this voluptuous performance seemed to provoke something of a glint to the eye of at least one Decadent Gent.

On the matter of the Decadent Gent - the sometime introducer, filler and rabble-rouser, I'll be frank: I didn't know what, or how to make what, of his performance. He twirled his cane with relish, he seemed to know what he was doing, he did a job - all good. But, his ice-cream seller get-up occasionally felt out of kilter. Counter-intuitively perhaps, I imagined his to be one of the trickier roles of the evening - 'Keep them happy 'til the next turn is ready' - a matter not helped by the crowd and the venue being all new to this game.

Reading interviews with Scarlet Fever, and from glancing over her website, it's clear that the longer-term future for this performer/producer is in the hosting and production of events - and why not. 'She's got an amazing figure', commented Emma - who I remembered had avidly followed the birth of this performer. On this occasion, in the wilds of northern Staffordshire, Scarlet gave a performance that seemed a little fleeting, albeit well-rehearsed. As a hostess and bringer of people together, top marks. The matters of Scarlet's family being in the audience, her husband helping out, and the occasionally blurred distinction between audience and performers, all made for a relaxed 'Not to be taken too seriously' evening - which was quite charming, really.

And for charm, then we might also refer to The Advocates of Deception - a pair who struck me as 'Two nice lads from the West Midlands' - magic! Despite playing to a very intimate room, their first on-stage appearance should have been on-mic'. That said, they learned, and second time round, they hit the mark comedically, magically and with can-of-soup-dependent sleight of hand. Also, for their black shirt, black waistcoat and red tie apparel, they scored sartorially, too - very AC Milan, very Shane Wexford.

Intriguing, vampish, gorgeous - Suzie Sequin, I liked a lot - really a lot. And for her 'balloon' performance (with chains... 'Mind your nipples!', I thought), she presented the most glittery and visually engaging* performance of the evening (and no, that's* not a euphemism).

Photo: Air Adam

I spent some time trying to guess at how experienced a performer Ms Sequin was, and what the particular detail or quality was that determined whether audiences would gauge a 'professional' or a 'convincing novice'. Erring towards the former, this performer seemed consumately at ease, and very well-rehearsed - a really important detail. On a slight side note, it is interesting how the mind does tend to wander at the hypnotic impact of the breast jiggle.

Just as the crowd were being lulled into the rhythm of a series of burlesque tease performances, there came The Chantilly Belles - theatrical, artful, funny. This duo began with a Fox and Hounds sketch - voiceless throughout, that saw jodphurs put to very good use. Miaow. Regretably, I missed their second sketch, but judging from the whooping and hollering that could be heard throughout the venue, I guessed that they'd gone down a storm second time round too. The one in the jodphurs almost crashed into me as they exited this second time. Soon after, I imagined that there could have been worse scenarios than such a being-crashed-into. And so, as happens, things moved on.

'Anna Fur Laxis - she was really good - my favourite', said Emma. Meanwhile, to my right, Benji simply slavered. Both were fair and reasonable responses.

Photo: Richard Clifton

I got the impression that every detail of Ms Fur Laxis' performance had been drilled - rehearsed, reviewed, tweaked. Every expression, every twist, and every turn was from a broad repertoire of tried and tested moves. As this performer exited the stage for the final time, the lovely gay boys to my left entered into a conversation that began with one commenting, 'You've got to admit, that was sexy...'. I can think of no better or incredible endorsement.

From Candee Handful, the audience were struck - dumb-struck, let us say - by her carousel horse act - itself only a very distant cousin of The Chantilly Belles' equine-related piece. Now, dear reader, I will tell you that I laughed. I laughed quite a lot. You see, for someone to so energetically ride their way through such a performance art piece - with great sounds and horsey visuals - before such a naive audience, well, it felt so brave, so wrong, yet so right, so funny. Expressions were variously glazed, amazed, incomprehending, shocked even. In retrospect, perhaps this had something to do with Ms Handful wearing a horse's head (not a real one) throughout. Whatever it was, upon being unclad of the head - revealed to the crowd - an air of relief spread through the room. The lady before us had earned her reception.

Throughout the evening, through DJ Telster, the tunes and accompanying music had bumped and grinded, spun and twirled along. And for not being of the young hipster mould of DJ, Telster was all the better for it.

An interesting final credit in the programme, but from my vantage point a very important one, was for Tempest Devyne. As the other performers variously tottered and trotted, sidled and sauntered, there seemed to be a maid - just off-stage - lending a hand in the management and preparation of performers. Said maid was the subject of the one - and only - line of quick and filthy wit from the Decadent Gent - something about him being used to her working at that level, as she crouched (at front of stage) to avoid crowding him out. Here, I cannot review Tempest as an on-stage performer, however, if her role was in-part that of provider of practical, moral and psychological support, then good one her. I imagine that to the less experienced burlesque performer, the act of getting up on stage and, as one of our party put it, 'Whopping out your whaps', must call for a particular kind of mental frame. From the middle distance, I took Ms Devyne to be the embodiment of the group ethic that spanned the show.

Favourite moments of the evening: Chatting with the two gay chaps to my left (our paths had crossed previously, though we'd never spoken); the lustrous curls, curves, shimmers and shakes of Sentosa Sparkle; the vampiric hint of Suzie Sequin; and the monocle-clad Benji the Fellow Fencer, to my right.

Forgiveable room for improvement: The table service system (it didn't flow, and seemed under-prepared for) - an easy-to-remedy detail, I'm sure.

'Really?' moment(s) of the evening:- Being approached (thrice, by different people - all sound of mind and warm of heart), to have it suggested that a role such as that occupied by the Decadent Gent - introducer, link-man, rabble-rouser - might be something that I would be good at. Every such suggestion was politely dismissed, but they did get me thinking: What would my burlesque name be?

So there you have it, burlesque au Stoke-on-Trent: an exercise to be repeated. December 13th, in fact.

5 comments:

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Try the Burlesque Name Generator: http://www.empty-handed.com/archive/burlesque/burlesque.html

I just did and it came up with Rusty Cox. Honest. Not that I'm suggesting...

Tempest Devyne said...

Hi Shane, thank you for a fantastic and very well balanced review of the evening. Than must have taken a lot of care and thought to write - thank you! Glad you laughed lots a Candee Handful's Rouge Rum. Talk was indeed the intention and as you could tell she worked very long and hard on the audio visuals. Some people got it, some didn't - we think she's a star. And wow! I got a review :) You don't usually see a burlesque maid or stage manager get a review - but glad to see I kept things running and people calm to your liking. If you come to the December, come and say hello! :)

Shane said...

Z - That is too kind. And too much information.
TD - Thank you. Ms Handful's audio visuals did up the ante, in terms of production values. Will be there in December, will come and say hello.

Anonymous said...

I am a keen supporter of burlesque nights at The Leopard. I thought the first one was great. Really, really fun. Such a good idea... and in Burslem. Who'd have thought! Anna Fur Laxis was my favourite too, she commanded the audience and had amazing presence. Very impressive. The room looked lovely - candles, party poppers and sweets on tables were a nice touch. Also, attention to details such as canapes being served and the cocktail menu being printed on gold paper. All added to giving the evening a special feel.

I did feel there were areas for improvement though. The cocktails were not good. I swear the mojito was made using mint cordial and lime cordial. I didn't even know that mint cordial existed, but believe me, it does. They tasted like Buttercup Syrup - a children's medicine (not bad, but NOT a mojito). I would suggest that a smaller menu of cocktails is offered but that they're made properly, or, if this is not feasible, don't offer cocktails. I'm sure the audience will be just as happy supping bottles of wine.

It was also a bit weird seeing middle-aged men and women tuck into lasagnes and hotpots whilst the burlesque acts were on stage. And the waitresses weaving in and out of the audience with heavy trays laden with food was rather distracting. I understand that the pub makes its money from sales at the bar and the food, but I think it would be worth re-thinking the food menu available for future events. Somehow, it didn't quite fit the evening.

That said, these are easy issues to solve. The burlesque nights have real potential and I'm sure that they will become more slick operations as lessons are learnt. I will certainly be going back.

- Little Pip

PI said...

Glad to see the spirit of Gypsy Rose Lee is alive and well and performing in Stoke.