The tricky thing about burlesque is that one never knows if it’s going to be terrible. It’s gathered new audiences in the past decade, and has become more widespread as a style of performance. It’s relatively new (not to ER, of course, fnar) but to theatrical companies who might have cottoned onto a winner and started to dabble the proverbial toe. So yes, a blossoming industry – helped along by a renewed interest in cabaret and variety shows – but a spit and shoe polish enterprise nonetheless, which in my book makes it that much more impressive when it’s pulled off. And this is – Chic Bonbons is entertaining, it’s sexy and it’s fun.
Caroline Hartshorn – the show’s artistic director – trained as a dancer, and the choreography and glitziness of this three-part extravaganza reflects this in spades. It’s a Parisian-style, Crazy-Horse-esque cocktail: all accordions and old-school jaunt – and it only debuted in May of this year. Impressive, then, at in just a few short months it’s gained a following: the delightful little downstairs room in Hoxton Square was packed, and felt appropriately dark and underpassy.
The company’s troupe of 11 was narrowed down to just six for the evening’s performance, with some songs and dances performed solo – the best acts allowed all six onstage. A difficult bridge for many directors to cross is the level of seriousness required, something which can make or break a performance. Thankfully, Chic Bonbons doesn’t take itself too seriously – it’s well done, perfectly timed, a smorgasbord of neon boots (up to the nines), a dancing acrobat smearing herself with warpaint, plush feather boas, great reams of plastic pearls and underwear I could only dream of owning if I weren’t a broke millennial living in a permanent state of mildew. Particular highlights include a rendition of the Pink Panther you most likely won’t have seen before (likewise Mr Sandman), and a wonderful sketch of two genteel Georgian ladies trying to steadily outdo each other by means you won’t (but come to) expect. Very funny.
Too many shows that market themselves on sex end up hipsterising the whole thing (a David Lynch-themed cabaret at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club – case in point). Chic Bonbons remembers what it’s actually about – great music belted out with feeling, Dirty Dancing-style moves and a sense of kitsch. Highly recommended.
Zigfrid Von Underbelly, N1 6NU
Every 3rd Wednesday of the month
Time: 8:00pm (Doors at: 7:00pm)
Venue: Zigfrid Von Underbelly, 11 Hoxton Sq., London, N1 6NU
Tickets: £12.00 OTD or Online Tickets