Erotic Review readers are probably acquainted with the burlesque and cabaret formula: irreverent host, guest acts, interval, after-party. Dirty Shame brings a new twist to the scene. Inspired by the infallible tastelessness of John Waters’s filmography, the hilarious new venture by prolific bump-and-grinder Emerald Fontaine breathes new life into the genre with a film night featuring post-screening variety entertainment.
Veteran cabaret star Dusty Limits hosts the engagement in the thin disguise of a Waters impersonator (‘Dusty Waters’? ‘Lusty Daughters’?), contributing a cheesy virtuoso rendition of Divine’s proto-hit pastiche You Think You’re a Man. Sporting giant balloon breasts, Sophia St Villier won’t stay long onstage before assaulting patrons at (very) close quarters with formidable aggressive teases. Contrasting with similarly flippant turns by firebrand Ophelia Bitz (of Artwank!) and Lydia Darling (sans her usual fire-juggling torches), it’s up to producer-curator Emerald Fontaine to illustrate Waters’s more demure side through a Cry Baby tribute routine full of languid moves and cheeky pin-up charm.
The evening’s variety finds a coruscating climax in Ruby Blues. Donning duct tape for pasties, the singer-burlesquer launches into her signature angle-grinding number, showering the stage (and the front row) with sparks emanating from a metal guitar prop. Her rather literal bump-and-grinding quickly grows into a thrilling one-woman fireworks display as the vixen fashions the sparks into elaborate patterns.
Though rooted in cult cinema, Dirty Shame has all the unpretentious aplomb of a pub film night. Short by current standards, the five-act revue is a perfectly sized epilogue to enhance the filmgoing experience. Brevity is most welcome to stunned spectators still recovering from a gross-out maelstrom like Pink Flamingos. Trust me, it’s for your own good.
As pop-up miniplexes multiply around London, it’s hard to understand how a straightforward film-variety combo took this long to surface. Forsaking the grandiloquence of blockbuster behemoths like Secret Cinema, Dirty Shame hijacks the much-hyped trend of immersive cinema to deliver a simple pleasure, both intimate and bold. And guilty, too: this is still John Waters we’re talking about, after all.
Emerald Fontaine’s Dirty Shame. Hosted by Dusty Limits. Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, London. 24 November, 20:30. £10.
Photos courtesy of the performers