I f******love tattooed burlesque performers – they’re like hallucinations of dancers in a turn of the twentieth century opium house. The kind of enchanting rundown wooden palace where the girls helped to keep you warm, helped to keep you cool, and importantly – helped to keep you high. I think it makes the performance so much sexier when the artist has tattoos running up and down the legs, curving around the contours of their spine, and crawling up and out from their waist and torso. It’s kaleidoscopic and alluring. And like Ray Bradbury’s Illustrated Man, when the show starts and the artist begins their performance, these tattoos morph into vapour angels and ether devils seductively springing to life within the bathing warmth of the show lights. It adds another dimension to the show, and another layer of mystery to the performance.
The audience was decorated in much the same vein: tattooed necks, arms and thighs, giant pierced earlobes, quiffed hair, roaring mohicans, shaved undercuts and a mish-mash of multi-coloured hair dye, along with corsets, leather, and a selection of playful dresses. All in all, a pretty luscious and sexy crowd for a wicked night of decadent carnivalia.
With the lights low and the room filled with laughing, boozing, burlesque fiends, the show rumbled almost innocently into life.
Out from the shadows stepped Dee Riley – dressed to kill as a polka dot prince turned devious lothario vampire. Dee did a fine job of keeping the audience ticking over throughout the night with plenty of ass-whipping eloquence. He also sprung a little bit of magic and mayhem on a half unsuspecting front row, and even introduced a little bit of hell shimmy to some unsuspecting men in the audience. More on that later.
Dancing onto the stage like an angel riding on the flame of a comet, Lulu Vesper’s show was cute and playful with just a hint of some underlying darkness. A devil within the bra-strap perhaps? With wicked eyes and a striking nose, Lulu’s hint of shyness and bashfulness really works for her ‘Call me Lulu’ act. And Lulu’s tall and elegant frame is perfect for her pin-up/cheesecake looks and style. She’s like the human embodiment of a Vargas girl, peeled off the page and sprung to life in front of your eyes. A vivid animation filled with dessert like seduction.
After the cheesecake came the cherry on top. And for some reason my notes for Turrrbo Cherry begin with ‘BOTTOM!’ Why? Because Turrbo really did shake her posterior particularly well during this performance. I have a feeling she even started the performance with her red dressed bottom wiggling from out onto the stage. Flying all the way in from ice cold Helsinki, Turrrbo’s act revolved around red hot Hawaiian surf music, which turned Turrrbo into a complete and utter luau Mama. A mama who spent the show dancing like a vision from one of Brian Wilson’s sandbox acid trips.
With the departure of one crashing wave came another rolling in from out of the high seas. In this case, the high seas being the crowd of flailing limbs and waving beer glasses. With the lights rolling over into a spooky green mist, Asimov Atomsmasher slinked mysteriously through the audience and onto the stage. Bejewelled and bedevilled in green, Asmiov’s devious act gave us the feeling of being tied to the mast of a hell bound ghost ship during a voyage into the sea of the damned. Asimov being the eerie apparition that teased and taunted us as we were unable to move. Her whole performance contained so much mystique that it felt like something from a life beyond the afterlife.
With our limbs free and able to move again, Foxy P. Cox bounced onto the stage with her wondrous dose of Purple Haze. Dressed in a beautiful satin gown, with matching erotic stockings and suspenders, Foxy went off like a firework, especially later on in her act when she excellently twisted and contorted her way around a chair – how do people find so much balance and poise, not to mention strength in their hands? I’m also in awe of that.
During the interval Dee gave three men from crowd the chance to get into the spirit of burlesque by way of a shimmy contest. Strangely all three men selected had beards of varying intensity. One even looked a little like Tobias Funke from Arrested Development. Anyway, the shimmy contest, run marvellously by ringmaster Dee and assisted beautifully by the gorgeous Lulu Vesper (stunning knee length black dress!) involved three pieces of burlesque: chest shaking, bottom wiggling, and finally, the bump ‘n’ grind. Actually all three amigos of boylesque did a fine job of shaking their beards, boobs and bottoms. If they get their act together they could actually have an act together. With the competition going to the audience’s vote it was Tobias Funke lookalike (amigo number 2) that rode off with the winnings (whatever they happened to be!?).
With the amigos bundled back into the darkness with their beards and beer glasses, Lou-Leigh Blue lept on stage to continue the carnage. Wrapped up in black and yellow like a dangerous queen hornet (or B-Movie Merkin Queen as her act suggests), Lou-Leigh danced like a Madame with her elegant and fantastical little striptease.
With a hornet back into the nest, the show could roll out some trippy sadistic confectionery – in this case Tinker Bell. The second of the night’s two ass-kicking Finns (we’re big fans of Finns), Tinker Bell showed us her cannibalistic candy floss act, which must have been dragged kicking and screaming from one of Willy Wonka’s sugar high nightmares. I wonder if he ever sat down like Aldous Huxley but ate sugar instead of mescaline? Anyway, I digress. Tinker Bell’s performance was as cool as it was surreal. Evil candy floss, who ever thought that? Probably millions of children after eating too much at the fairground.
With the audience now falling into a psychedelic candy filled stupor it was time to…
KABOOM! Wow. I think anyone who saw Aima Indigo‘s performance can say the same – pure explosive transcendence. Walking onto the stage with her full length tattoos and latex Mexican flag underwear, Aima bulldozered the front row, tank tracked the second, and then crushed everything behind it with her big metal riffs, giant fists full of flame, and a tongue-lick loaded with napalm. Those in the crowd who weren’t already dead, managed to stay alive long enough to witness pure burlesque/fire dancing hedonism. All volatile word play aside, Aima’s act was also incredibly rhythmic and stylish, and angular, too. She really has a great knack of swinging and sliding those fire sticks around her hands. And for one small split second she was blasting out pure fire from the back of her mouth.
The last time we saw Lou Safire we called him Zeus meets Apollo. I think this time we’ll call him ‘his Majesty’. The guy really does have the feeling of being a God on earth, one with feathers and a thunderous habit for slinking. Anyone who has seen Lou’s act in the flesh will know that he’s a bit of a legend. And something we really find interesting about Lou Safire is his tattoos – they’re compulsive viewing! Something we really liked about Lou’s show was actually a very small moment when one set of feathers fell to the floor and Lou instinctively swore at them on their way down ha ha!
It takes a massive heart and a big set of balls to slip onto the stage after an evening of fiery surrealism and burlesque pyrotechnics, but that’s what Oh! Carolina did. What a tiny, gorgeous little hellion she is! And for someone under about 5 ft 6 she’s actually incredibly strapping, and daring enough to walk on glass during her act. You can’t help but admire someone so quick and nimble – she’s like a lightning bolt from one of Nikola Tesla’s hobby shops.
So that was the show, and what a great evening it was. Big thanks to the organisers and to all the acts for a devilishly epic performance. The FUN was definitely here and the FUN was super-f****** badass!
The London Burlesque Festival runs until 22nd May 2016.