Arthur Chappell

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A one-off cabaret spectacular, staged to raise money for a new website for Faint Fascinations, a modelling and photography group that gives ordinary people, outside of the stereotypical modelling size & shape associated with modelling, a chance to look good in a variety of mostly themed photo-shoots. The FF also gives established, new and non-professional photographers a chance to build portfolios working with FF models and make-up artists.


With many burlesque dancers, cabaret performers, poets and comedians in the Manchester FF membership (The FF being a national organization now)  a live stage show seemed an obvious way to promote the organization and raise some money towards it. All performers appeared for free, with only those travelling in from out of the city claiming modest travelling expenses.


I arrived early as I had two pieces to perform myself, and it was lovely to meet the performers, as we got ready. The lovely Oliver’s Bar had limited changing facilities, so I got into most of my gear in the loos, to allow the ladies the chance to get changed more easily and discreetly.


As it got closer to show time it was beginning to look like no would arrive, but the audience did arrive and the show started a little later than planned. 


WESLEY MALLIN had the toughest job of all, compeering the event, and did so with great charm and sophistication, in a wry and well-presented delivery of various risqué gags and monologues.


The first act of the night was my own, approaching the stage in my Sealed Knot English Civil war re-enactor’s uniform to invite (or rather summons) the audience to a 17th century puritan party for Oliver Cromwell, with no pleasure whatsoever allowed – (a set of puns on the obvious pleasures lined up before the audience at our own show), The appreciation was wonderful, and I was happy I’d been involved. – The text of the piece (bar a few ad-libs, is here – INVITATION


DUCKIE came on next, making a stunning burlesque debut in a dark dress with white spots, reading a book on how to be a lady, only to be taken by the music and driven into a crazy desire to shed her inhibitions and clothing, but with no loss in style, grace or beauty. I have no doubt she will go on to even greater glory.


BELLA DONNA BERRY performed her lovely ‘If I knew you were coming, I’d have baked a cake’ dance, another one I have saw her do at the November 2009’s Slippery Belle. Miming the messy food mixing but with real utensils, Bella sheds her flour stained clothes until she is left in very little as you can imagine. 


MIDJET JEM (who had performed only once before, as MISS LITTLE JEM, at the Green Room charity show DESPERATELY SEEKING ALEX) presented her Jessica Rabbit piece, as a seductive girl willing to do anything to get a free drink. Her red dress, white furs, and sleek black gloves suited the set perfectly, and she timed the final reveal neatly as a perfect tease on the audience – Traditional classic burlesque at its best.


The maids, PRINCESS OF DARKNESS & BLAZE worked superbly in tandem, clearing props and discarded costume items and preparing the stage for the next performer. 


ALEX D FISHER, who had also supported DESPERATELY SEEKING ALEX, (missing poet, Alex Humphreys, not himself) presented a silent display of superb conjuring skills, drawing an endless supply of ribbons and handkerchiefs from seemingly nowhere, joining and separating steel rings that looked as if they had no visible means of separating, in a brilliantly timed routine that kept the audience suitably spellbound.


AVE AMORE presented her Michael Jackson tribute dance, as seen at the December 2009, Slippery Belle,  in a white shirt, black stockings and gloves and a hat, moonwalking, with some great sleight of hand work in removing her top, using her hat to cover her breasts until she was ready to reveal her pasties.


After a break, there was a traditional bawdy ballad read out superbly by compeer WESLEY MALLIN,  Moronto, Moronto, Moreno, a ballad / rugby song. He felt quite apologetic to me as  the show’s ‘poet’ for performing this, but I was quite happy to see other poets and poetry performed in the show and especially done as well as this.


ANABELLA ACES came on to perform in a black top and shorts, burlesquing Lady Ga-Ga’s Poker-Face, and performing deliberately bad conjuring tricks with playing cards – (posing no competition to Alex D Fisher), removing clothes to find the elusive missing cards, which proved to be the only cover on her breasts.  It was a delightful funny routine.


DUCKIE was next, as a little devil, arriving in Heaven, removing her red wings and her corsetry in an effort to look like a good girl who deserved admission, and somehow giving the impression that Heaven would be a better place (Ha!) for accepting her into its fold.


BELLA DONNA BERRY performed her exquisite flower-power dance, last seen by me at November 2009’s Slippery Belle. She took me by surprise here by including among the audience members she kissed as she moved to the stage,  to the Hair anthem, The Age Of Aquarius, in her blue dress shirt, and a straw hat, before pretending to smoke a massive reefer joint and then peeling down to her smouldering mini-outfit to dance the Hippy-Hippy shake, and clearly enjoying herself immensely.


AVA AMORE returned to the stage to close the second act with a Bollywood style eastern dance, with ribbons and little tinkling bells, rings on her fingers, a golden bra, tall heels and fabulous fluttering eyelashes.


During the break I got to have a brief chat with KALANDRA WHEATCROFT who was running a stall selling some burlesque related accessories and dolls hats she made herself.


I wasn’t able to chat long though as I had to get ready to be the opening artist of the third and final part of the show.


As requested by me, WESLEY MALLIN after a few great gags of his own, set the audience to humming the best known tune from Wagner’s Ride of the Valkeries, as I came out in my Lord Of The Rings inspired Nazgul cloak, - the slow arrival was not for effect, but due to my very restricted visibility. I wielded a massive plywood broadsword and spoke like Elmer J Fudd – ‘Shh, be very very quiet. I’m hunting hobbits.”


Lots of other Lord of the Rings gags followed, i.e., “No Tolkien while the turns are on,” and in surrendering the sword to leave my hands free, ‘Could somebody stick this in an elf for me for safe keeping’. 


I performed a poem I had remembered from when I was human, ‘The Hip-Hop Chip Shop,”  I left the stage to the Valkeries march reprise, chanting back, Kill The Hobbit, Kill The Hobbit, (a subtle reference to a classic Bugs Bunny cartoon, ‘What’s Opera Doc?) that some members of the audience actually recognized).


MAGENTA MOON followed me (in another routine that had been used at the DESPERATELY SEEKING ALEX event), dancing down to her panties from a black dress to Marilyn Manson’s version of  Tainted Love.


ALEX D FISHER performed a set involving some audience participation, somehow correctly identifying in writing the name of a lady’s one time pet cat, Lucy, though making it clear that this was conjuring and not some form of spiritualism. In another trick, Alex divided the entire shuffled pack between two members of the audience, and correctly worked out which of them had each card in turn until the whole deck was recovered. Very impressive.


DAMIEN S FEAR – The last cabaret act had to be sent to be believed. I have seen a few performers who turn masochistic self-harm into art, but none so extreme and genuinely funny as well as a little unsettling to watch as Damien. Calling himself a freak, and wearing a tee-shirt with a FREAK logo to prove it, he moved like a shambling gimp, a hillbilly Jason from Friday the 13th films, and began to apply the kind of piercing needles used on ears, straight into his face, causing some blood to trickle.


Assisted by a nurse called RAYE-GUNN. in a nurses outfit and a gas mask, and with Jesus Loves the Little Children playing in the background, he picked up two empty (though still very heavy) beer barrels on a chain attached to a bar that pierced through his neck, without using his hands.


A few audience members had to go out rather than watch more, but most stuck it out with grim fascination.  He took a staple gun and put staples into his own face. Raye-Gunn presented her own Grand Guignal act by speed slicing a cucumber  with a sharp knife while it was on her arm. Damien seemed genuinely worried that she might have cut herself until he realized that the blood wasn’t hers but his own, splashed onto her from his own stage routines.


Damien peaked with a trick involving picking up a borrowed £10.00 without seeing his hands. He put the money on top of a set of drawing pin tacks on a table and then nutted the table to embed the tacks in his scalp trapping the money against his blood red forehead.  He finished his set by putting a lit blowtorch in his own mouth and the cabaret came to an end with a few words of thanks from the compeer WESLEY MALLIN, and a disco run by the Oliver’s Bar DJ par excellence,  CHERRYBOMB.


My own thanks to everyone involved in not only the show, but in everything to do with Faint Fascinations, especially  their tireless organisers and founders, LETHAL GEM, DUCKIE, BLAZE AND PRINCESS OF DARKNESS. .


CANDY SHACK Burlesque were also invaluable in their support especially in preparing the bar for the show on the big day – a day no one there could ever forget or think of with pride. Thanks also to the Oliver’s bar audience who showed so much appreciation for my own performances amidst such a fantastic, beautiful and immensely talented cast of  players.. The staff at Oliver’s Bar were lovely helping me get a taxi home after the show too.




What’s Opera Doc?  The Oscar winning cartoon that inspired my second routine

Copyright. Arthur Chappell               







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