London Burlesque Week 2011: Boylesk All Male Revue

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In the spangly, pastie-strewn world of modern burlesque, male performers have generally taken a back seat to their female counterparts. Seeking to set this straight is Madame Jojo’s outrageous and wonderful Boylesk, the first all male review for London Burlesque Week.

Ophelia Bitz, our compère, was clearly sharing my delight at the prospect of an evening spent brazenly ogling some delicious young fellows wearing very little, and took full advantage of the innuendo-laden opportunities offered by her status as the only lady in the line up. The evening kicked off with an international feel: Italian Alan Debevoise invited us all to join the mile high club with a cabin crew-inspired striptease, taking us from Milan to London in style. Debevoise sashayed through his act before touching down to delighted applause from one of the noisiest burlesque audiences I’ve come across to date. He kicked off a trend which I’m pleased to say ran throughout the show – men in uniform, removing it.

Continuing the uniformed trend were Captain Anchor and British Heart, treating us to high camp and super-surrealism respectively. Captain Anchor’s rendition of Copacabana, complete with resplendent yellow feathers, had the audience whooping and screaming at its strutting camp, while British Heart baffled us with an English gentleman adventurer in space routine. On re-entering the atmosphere our intrepid explorer, Captain Glory Box, is summoned by the voice of God; God in this case being a wardrobe-sized vagina, obviously. And equally obviously, the Captain must remove his clothing before coming in unto the Lord. Bemused and amused, the audience wholeheartedly gave him the encouragement he needed to complete his task for Queen and country.

Back on earth, another theme was emerging: the respectable English gent behaving in an unutterably loose manner. The exquisite Hooray Henry Higgins got the ball rolling with a tragicomic mime to Jacques Brel’s Jackie, distributing layers on the ground to reveal new props and show off that Spanish bum. Between giggles, the audience joined in with the choruses to Higgins’s inspired prompts. A further touch of class was added by the talented Kiki Lovechild and Jessica, a sultry blues singing puppet with an insatiable appetite for ripping off men’s clothes.

Descending from the upper echelons to join us at Madame Jojo’s was Lord Ritz. The Lord took time out to teach the hoi polloi a little about poise and class, before revealing corsetry to rival Beau Brummel’s. Of all the acts, Lord Ritz’s was the most charming. To the strains of Hollywood classic Puttin’ on the Ritz, he transitioned from English gent sipping tea to coyly enthusiastic dancer removing his top hat and tails: his performance was hilarious, polished and a guaranteed audience pleaser in the week of the royal wedding.

While Lord Ritz had all the moves, Joe Black was our resident gothic songbird. Black performed a fantastically creepy rendition of ‘Don’t Tell Mama’ from Cabaret, before engaging the audience with a sing along to Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance. While Black was a little out of place in a lineup otherwise largely featuring strippers, the boylesque audience were keen throughout.

Combining song and striptease was Spencer Maybe, a debauched glam rock parody who hissed his own song Flesh at us while removing his ruffled cravat, cape and flares. In an act of shameless self-promotion, the new music video for Flesh was played before the interval, featuring burlesque stars of the calibre of Bestsy Bonbon and Kiki Kaboom gyrating on a flight of stairs, while Maybe wriggled between their writhing bodies. Flesh is a catchy song: it is a shame that the video relied on MTV cliché and that the backing dancers’ skills were left untapped, particularly when Maybe’s live performance was itself so sexy and amusing.

Providing a truly international feel was Go-Go Harder, who graced us with his presence all the way from New York. The final act to perform, he brought a hyperactive energy befitting of his naughty schoolboy routine to the show. Complete with shorts and a helicopter hat, Go-Go elicited squeals of laughter from the audience with his pacy, all American act.

But the twinkling star of the evening was undoubtledly Equador the Wizard, a bearded magic man-rocker with a penchant for the surreal. Having been wowed by his close-up sleight of hand a few months back, I was already won over to his charm and talent. However, nothing could have prepared me for this boylesque tour de force: to a mixture of Queen, Wagner and more, Equador’s magical, body-popping, balletic, headbanging striptease was took endless twists and turns, and had both men and women in the audience in fits of laughter, whooping for more. By my calculation, Equador performed three act’s worth of striptease in ever-changing guises, showering the stage with water and confetti. The viewers at Madame Jojo’s were loud in their appreciation of this engaging performer: particularly when the rabbit was finally let out of the hat.

While boylesque will perhaps amuse more than titillate (Duke DeMilo’s Susan Boyle fan dance was seat-wettingly funny, but probably didn’t dampen any knickers), it is a refreshing shift of focus providing plenty of laughs and outrageous camp fun for those seeking something a little different from the fare served up in the rest of London Burlesque Week. I can guarantee there wasn’t a dud act amongst them.

London Burlesque Week: Boylesk All Male Revue. Madame Jojo’s, Soho, London. 27 April, 20:00. £15-25. www.londonburlesqueweek.com

All photos by Sin Bozkurt, exclusively for Erotic Review

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