Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Enchanted Burlesque

Last month it was the 5th anniversary show of Enchanted Burlesque, which started off at the Flapper as the Silk Stocking Striptease Show. The team that run the event laid on a dazzling night, inviting back old friends and providing an exciting evening of entertainment. It was sad, however, that Angel LaVey was unable to perform.

In some respects it would be right to call it their gala show, breaking out the best talent in a grand celebration. This included bringing back Mysti Vine and Mr Joe Black, who are both talented, intelligent, sometimes challenging, performers. Terms of Unnervement, Joe Black's new burlesque double act performed two short skits, both challenging and slightly sleazy, though what left the most impression on me, aside from the cleverness of the acts was how well Aran tucks! Joe went on to perform some of his own songs later on in the show, an area that he's focused on a good deal more recently. I think some of my fellow audience members were a little perturbed by the cry of 'sing or I'll fucking kill you', but what do you expect from a man who sings gleeful little songs about kicking babies down the stairs?

I must confess that burlesque dancing leaves me a little cold. After the first couple of turns I start to get a sense of deja vu, spotting the same moves repeated over and over. I appreciate you can't really throw in anything that different; the human body only does so much after all, it just all gets a bit, well samey (I'm not sure if I get kicked out of the male half of the human race for saying that, but oh well). Perhaps this is why I appreciate performers like Mysti so much, the routine she performed for the5th anniversary show, silhouetted behind a screen seemed innovative and interesting, whilst her pimp routine was funny and provocative. Its a mark of a good burlesque dancer, in my opinion, when their performance goes beyond just taking off their clothes and into something else; fortunately this is something that Enchanted Burlesque's performers have been excellent at achieving, dating back all the way to the days at the Flapper.

This isn't to say that Enchanted Burlesque hasn't come a long way, whilst the quality of the dancers they attract has stayed more or less the same, their productions are definitely better now than they were five years ago. The cabaret is the area that has really improved with the move to the Old Rep however. Silk Stocking had navigated a narrow course between the good and the abysmal, featuring racist comics and a guy with a guitar who (barely) sang rockabilly songs. Enchanted Burlesque however attracts a far better range of cabaret performers, I don't think you could argue that opening a show with a performance from Drag's lead singer is in anyway comparable to the rather anemic offerings of a few years ago. It remains risque but, well, I don't miss jokes about 'pakis' or a guy in a bunny suit trying desperately to make an indifferent audience laugh. Tellingly, however, the organisers aren't afraid to take risks, as evidenced by the Frank Sinazi performance at the first show they held at the Crescent Theatre. I feel that this is an important part of the way they operate, always moving forward, innovating. Recently they've really raised the game, attracting international stars like Cherry Shakewell.

The show officially changed hands at the time, from James to Angel LaVey and the ethos of the show quite plainly changed at that time. It became perhaps slightly camper, safer, and comported itself with more of a knowing wink. The change of MC has probably helped. Dapper as the Decadent Gent was, funny as was Al Grant was, they weren't really suited for a theatre audience. In contrast Joe Black and Mister Meredith have the advantage of not only being performers themselves (useful for when you need a little time to establish props) but they also have the skills and charm to sell themselves as risque but ultimately safe, (even when dragging members of the audience up on stage to effectively molest them for comic effect).

All in all the show continues to go from strength to strength, I feel it's safe to say that in the next few years Enchanted Burlesque will become one of the big names amongst burlesque shows.


5 comments:

  1. Interesting blog. As I have somuch to say I've had to comment a few times, not just once.

    I'm a bit surprsed by the rascist comics comment. To my knowledge we've never booked a racist comedian spouting the word Paki's, although there was one comedian who was advised to cut his rape jokes from the act and then ignored the advice he was given before tanking his act right at the end because of those jokes. Perhaps he sneaked some other working men's club humour in that didn't register on the night with Angel or I. However in retrospect we've always tried to push the boundaries as much as possible if the line-up, venue and theme demands it. Frank Sanazi was ideal for Enchanted Burlesque Dangerous because we wanted an off-beat and subversive show, similar booking processes were in place for Enchanted Burlesque Risque when we booked Mysti Vine to perform the v-stume stand up set (which she toned down in the Old Rep as compared to the Flapper). And of course who can forget the complaints we and the theatre received for Mister Joe Black joking about incest and beastiality (and rape again). Since those complaints I've jokingly advised Joe to only joke/sing about genocide, racisim and anti-Semitism (this is Joe Black, he does Tiger Lillies covers and sings about murdering his lover before eating the body, enjoyment of bad taste is a must if you're at a show with him in).

    As for the rabbit costumed comedian... yes, well, we won't make that mistake again (cinge). As for J.D. Smith, he divided opinions, we had people come to the show just to see him whilst others just wanted to see boobs.

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  2. As for your comment that we've been consitant with our quality of burlesque performers since day one, I'm afraid I disagree with you. In the days of smaller Flapper venue we had an incredibly tight budget so we had to make compromises on our ideals. We also had a maximum of 2 unpaid spots per show for completely new performers with no videso or very poor one, a sort of get your feet wet and get some feedback from Angel about what you could do to step it up a bit. Free spots are history now and the criteria for booking burlesque performers is a lot tighter. We have people who worked the Silk Stocking Striptease Show who'll probably never get a booking on our theatre stage because they've yet to step it up and seem unlikely ever to do so.

    The changing of hands was completely fake. Angel and I have been booking shows and running them jointly since day one. Occasionally one of us will take a dominant role in the booking of an event: Angel for Enchanted Burlesque Sirens & Scoundrels, myself for Enchanted Burlesque Risque. But as a rule we argue, discuss and mentally come to blows over each and every show as we take it in turns to fight the corner of the performers we'd like to book. Angel taking contriol of the show was simply an on-stage performance to re-brand the Silk Stocking Striptease Show to Enchanted Burlesque and to provide an exit for the character Gehenna (although some audience members say that he keeps sneaking out every now and then when I'm working on-stage... good). The decision to go a bit more fluffy was also a response to the move to the theatre setting as information we'd been given is the audience demands change, comedy acts had to take a back seat to straight glamour. We agreed with this, and then started slowly pushing those boundaries too as Angel and I agree that there is only so many pretty size 10 or less female performers in gorgeous outfits you can put on stage before you start to lose the audience. This is why performers like Mama Jenufa, Glorian Grey and Emerald Ace have been brought in - to re-inject some humour and challenge narrow perceptions of what a burlesque performer is. From audience feedback we have found that booking these performers is a popular move with the audience.

    As for bigger and better stars. Our first international star with a huge name in the circuit was Wild Card Kitty, back in 2008. Kitty had already performed at Miss Exotic World in Las Vegas when we booked her to headline the last Silk Stocking Striptease Show of that year. Miss Exotic World is the big event of the industry, organised by the Burlesque Hall of Fame. If you go from that point forwards most of our headliners have worked internationally, been featured on the television or even in cinema.

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  3. I agree with you on Al Grant and the Decadent Gent.

    The Decadent Gent was insanely popular BUT I felt he did not push himself enough. He had a fine singing voice, as seen when he sang Down With the Sickness, but it always felt like he was too conservative in pushing forwards with his onstage patter. I feel that had he been nurtured by one of the established comperes and maybe found the right environment to test out new material safely he could have been one of the top comperes that works all over the country, a burlesque house hold name. Unfortunately I feel he was too safe and that tanked his chances of progressing. Having said that he did much better as a burlesque podcast personality, it's a crime that he doesn't do them anymore although I've heard through the grapevine that he now does a Dr Who podcast that's attracting lots of positive criticism. One last problem I had with the Decadent Gent was that he had a great name, but the person behind the character was the opposite of decadence, a clean living young man who was a pleasure to be around and also mature far beyond his years. When he tried to be decedant on-stage it came across as inauthentic. I'm not sure what character name would have suited him better, but again I feel that somewhere was an opportunity that was sadly lost. Bah humbug.

    In comparrison when i took to the stage as Gehenna and snarled 'fuck off' brutally at the promoter of the Candy Box after she heckled me there was laughter tinged with 'is he serious or in character' - in short I broke the wall between reality and fiction so that even though I was just performing people couldn't tell. This eventually created a problem for me as Gehenna was inseperable from me in the burlesque community eyes, and even after we killed off Gehenna it stuck around for ages (so we brought him back for a show). However I have recently tried to tap back into that character with some success, just so long as I'm not trying to force it. And that's why Mister Meredith and Joe Black (and Mysti Vine next) are the compere's for Enchanted Burlesqe theatre shows, their performances are inseperable from reality so the audience buys them as genuine.

    Al Grant was the opposite of the Decadent Gent, but then he was an intellectual stand-up comedian rather than a compere. Whilst the Decadent Gent played it too safe Al Grant was happy to mix it up. No more repetative intro's of splitting the audience down the middle for cheering before announcing the next act, here was a compere that could say something interesting inbetween acts... until it came to announcing the act name, then his memory failed him completely. For the last show he compered we asked him to dress as a Doctor, then we gave him a clipboard with the running order on it. Al Grant was another lost opportunity. Had he nailed the names of the performers it's quite possible that he'd have been the first compere for our Enchanted Burlesque theatre shows. But like DG he's already found his place, this time on the comedy circuit where he's much better suited.

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  4. To deal with complaints now we make sure we have large warnings about the show on our posters and fliers, our shows are for the broad minded who can tell when something is a deliberate bad taste joke rather than racist, sexists, pickyourist propoganda for societies bottom feeders like the EDL, the BNP and other such extremist groups.

    Our corporate events for clients are unsurprisingly a lot tamer, but if that's what our clients want that's what they get.

    Variety is easier now we're in larger venues, we have the budget to afford at least some of them. Even now though we have quotes for 4 figure fees or very high 3 figure fees that we simply can't accommodate without ramming show ticket prices through the roof or unacceptably cutting too many corners on the rest of the bill

    Finally, depending on who you talk to we are already a big name in the British burlesque circuit. Whether that's just performers buttering us up for bookings, perceptions based on what people think rather than know (as is the case in some of your blog comments) or we really are this well respected I couldn't tell you. All I know is Angel and I would like to still be here after the next 5 years and beyond to entertain many, offend a few, keep pushing the boundaries so our creative booking can strengthen and give opportunities for some great performers.

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