Review: Burlesque!

Nikita Malik 22 November 2012

Burlesque!

Corpus Playroom, 9.30pm, until Sat 24 Nov

The ADC and Fletcher Players present Burlesque!, written and performed by Sian Docksey, Martha Bennet, Sophie Williams, and Julia Lichnova. Taking place in the Corpus Playroom, the play is divided into a series of solo and intimate performances, interjected by narratives from its mistress of ceremonies Ryvita von Teese, played by a superfluous yet elegant Sian Docksey. It takes a touch of genius, and a lot of courage, to juxtapose bawdy comedy and female striptease so effortlessly – yet this student production manages to do that with ease. The use of pastiches and parodies of popular songs is carried by a live band throughout, complemented by singing and dancing soubrettes.

My expectations when entering the venue were rather low — the playroom stage is so small it requires your audience to walk though the actors to be seated, yet the performers used this dynamic to their advantage to create an intimate and interactive setting. The show does take some time to build, reaching its climax towards the end with the culmination of two striptease acts. The first is a steamy, almost violent sexual interaction to the score of Christina Aguilera’s Dirty, clearly indicating that Juliet Cameron Wilson and Georgia Ingles are parodying Cher and Christina of the televised Burlesque. This is propelled by props: Nutella is smeared on gleeful audience members – take note that this particular scene is not for the faint-hearted. The second solo performance is a ‘Freudian strip’ by the vivacious Marika McKennel, done so artfully that her nipple diamantes look chic.

Sian Docksey was wonderful throughout, bullying and belittling her audience in the true art of a Madame, and consistently asking for suggestions to create new material – compiling quite a catchy tune from the proposed words of ‘croissant’, ‘sex’, and ‘house’. Her wit is clear in her writing, even in the very basic level of her pseudo name, ‘Ryvita von Teese’ being a play on ‘Dita von Teese’, a notable neo-burlesque performer frequently dubbed the ‘the Queen of Burlesque’. While the show has been criticized by many for being an affront to feminism, the stars of the production remain the male contributors. Jeff Carpenter plays a truly entertaining Justine, gaining the most laughs without uttering a single word. Saul Boyer is the star of the night with his Be a Man! number, littering his transformation from an alpha-male Tarzan to an alpha-female Margaret Thatcher with political satire. Fred Maynard is compelling in his solo song, Put the blame on Mame, managing to be endearing whilst wearing a cropped shirt illustrating his ample abs.

The production is not without its flaws, indeed, the interjection of a clown act towards the middle of the show would have been better replaced with an interval. One actress spent the majority of her time on stage pulling up her stockings, making one ponder over the lack of investment in appropriate garter belts. Yet this erotic show remains raunchy throughout, ending with the audience being forced outside the venue to the streets for the last song, leaving the rain to serve as a cold shower.

Nikita Malik