It’s not often you can say you’ve had the perfect evening. The type of night that jumps up and grabs you when you’ve spent the day feeling flu-logged and grumpy. Not only does it pull you out of your snotty nosed self pity, it smacks you around the head with more force than a flagon full of Barocca and leaves you gasping for more.
On Friday night, the lad and I braved the cold streets of London to line up at the Pigalle Club. The venue has played host to the likes of Shirley Bassey, Ruby Turner and Van Morrison and we’d pre-booked tickets to see the “Queen of British Burlesque” – Immodesty Blaize. I must admit, we went expecting to be disappointed. A phone call during the week had warned us they’d overbooked so we weren’t going to take any chances. I’m knee high to a Hobbit and paid 110 quid for those tickets – I wasn’t risking any restricted seating malarkey. Thank goodness we bypassed the temptation of pre-dinner drinks. The goose-pimples and waiting time scored us a prime position; an intimate table for two, lit by a battery operated table lamp and smack bang in front of the stage. I soon forgot my cold and revelled in the knowledge that we were due for some flesh wiggling fun.
If you know much about burlesque you should get cracking and learn. The sexy, sultry entertainment of the early 19th century has undergone somewhat of a resurgence lately. Londoners love it, fleshy middle aged women lap it up and men squirm in their seats as curvaceous bombshells strip up and down with the use of sultry music, glamorous props and a whole lotta feathers. Sure, every second media party out there these days makes a half-hearted attempt at encapsulating the theme but after Immodesty Blaize’s performance in 2006, we knew we were in the hands of a pro.
There are some people that class burlesque as ‘stripping’. The two girls I overheard in the bathroom certainly agreed. My theory? They were too intoxicated and jealous to really look beyond the flesh. You see more pink stuff on show at the local pub… the difference is, Immodesty knows how to make the most of what she’s got. Pub hens however, let their ‘muffin tops’ bulge and flow. It’s not just the girls… you see more butt crack on show as you pass a builder’s site. Sure, Immodesty took layers off but she also put them on in the second act. Above all, it wasn’t distasteful – I wouldn’t have enjoyed it if it was. Her nipples were covered with glitter encrusted tassels and ‘down there’ was left to the imagination. Burlesque is about alluding to the naughtiness of sex. It’s in the sly winks, sensuous movements and the confident removal of corsets, stockings, bra and inhibitions. A dash of comedy doesn’t go astray either.
We knew we were in for a first class show as soon as we saw the stage. An empty dance floor was all that stood between us and a glorious, free-standing Victorian bath. The ‘B’ emblazoned in the side almost as eye catching as the enormous shimmering B behind it. Yep, you guessed it – Immodesty began in a bubble bath and ended the final act draped across the top of a black leather fringed ‘B’.
Part of the fun of a burlesque show is the lead up to the action. The two acts seemed short but nestled perfectly between novel and repetitive. Our tickets included a three course dinner and despite the odd bad review or two I’ve read in the past, the food was delightful. They’ve obviously improved since they opened. Melt in the mouth chicken and steak and Tarte Tatin for ‘pudding’. Not a lot of choice but they covered all bases and did it well. Between mouthfuls we watched sexy young jazz singer Imelda May (watch this one… she’s great) serenade the masses with the help of a lively jazz band. that’s the beauty of it really, it’s all about the entire experience.
If you saw Channel 4’s reality television show ‘Faking It’ you would have witnessed the transformation of a timid rural housewife into a burlesque performer. With the help of Immodesty Blaize, she faced her demons (and her wobbly bits) and successfully ‘faked it’ – in front of a crowd. So, Immodesty has cellulite… who cares? She’s the sexiest woman I’ve seen in a long time. My boyfriend couldn’t agree more. The seats were so good I could see Immodesty Blaize’s goosebump-endowed butt cheeks and any imperfections (trust me, she has few) added to her charm. The woman is real – young girls with eating disorders should be made to see her show… they’ll come out appreciating the beauty of womanly curves.
As the show came to an end and the 1940s-styled supper club filled with the vintage wax sounds of DJ El Nino, I gripped my cocktail and whisked my lad around the dance floor. For one rare night I actually felt confident about my curves… and on Valentine’s day, that’s what we really all want. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea… (cup of cocktail maybe) but go on, take a risk and try something new.