Equipped to quench your thirst, the Brickhouse’s three-tiered bar rises up towards operatic viewing heights. But that is about as close to high-culture as Studio 64 Presents: Purple Rain gets. Perched against the industrial railings on the top balcony, my friend and I sweltered through the first half of the show while Prince look-alike Jimi Love brought a blow-out rendition of Purple Rain to a close. As smoke continued to rise up around the stage we descended to the middle tier (just like the metallic confetti that fell from above our heads, prematurely christening the hen-night parties below) and enjoyed a slightly cooler second half. This position also made for better views of the stage, bringing the eye in line with the performers rather than the galaxy of starry shadows reflecting from a large suspended disco ball above.
The second half opened with the strongest act of the night, both physically and stylistically. Roxy Velvet threw aside her gold stilettos to ascend, Lycra-clad, up a purple drape from which she spun her body through a fantastically sensual routine. Dipping and diving gracefully between the fabric’s folds, she defied gravity and twirled seamlessly to Prince’s tune. She performed at a level that Agent Lynch’s striptease in the previous half had failed to reach. Her dove impersonation lacked Roxy Velvet’s style and finesse, as she delivered a number that failed to arouse the senses. Even when she threw aside her pure white bodice and tinkled on a keyboard covering her crotch, I was left wanting…
Stage management got going after Roxy Velvet’s finale, rolling back the red curtain to bring down a fold-away stage on stilts – a messy contraption that created an unnecessary extra level in a venue already accommodating so many heights. And it didn’t raise the standard of the performances either. Such artistic shortfalls made this an evening oflargelycheap thrills, someof which were enjoyedpublicly during the various interludes of audience participation that dotted the evening. But for onlookers, or at least for me, these episodes weren’t enjoyable. Epitomised by boring banter, bad dancing and bawdy innuendos, they were simply cringe worthy.
An unpolished Kiss on the stilted-stage had hostess Lady C prancing around “Prince” with an energy that was very much untamed and, if choreographed, had little effect but to overwhelm. On the other hand, Love’s presence onstage was underwhelming and aesthetically demure; he didn’t ignite the night, but rather seemed to figure as the glue of the show – holding it all together, while his female co-performers played on wildly different tracks.
The final act concluded on another such slightly off-key note, as Agent Lynch appeared in crude Empire State costume stripping down to flashing nipples and, I must say, a very pinchable-looking bare backside. With a silver and gold pom-pom in each hand she brought the evening to its climax with a thrust of the hips, a pyrotechnic bang and a bit of smoke… but ultimately it was no erotic rocket science.
Studio 64 Presents: Purple Rain failed to grasp the potential of Prince’s prolific past portfolio and particular brand of 90s erotica, presenting instead only the sense of a fading star. As such, I was left pondering on the opening pantomime rhetoric: Who wears the crown?
I think there is still a fair bit of work to be done before this tribute night finds itself at any sort of coronation.
Studio 64 Presents: Purple Rain. The Brickhouse, Brick Lane, London. 22 March to 30 April 2011, 20:30. £10. www.thebrickhouse.co.uk
Photo credits: Shireen Bahmanizad (Agent Lynch), others courtesy of Agent Lynch