BURLESQUE REVIEW – SLIPPERY BELLE - SUBCULTURE CLUB – LEEDS NOVEMBER 1st 2008.
I was in Leeds for the LEEDS EROTICA FESTIVAL, and this event, though a monthly staple of Leeds nightlife, was rightly given pride of place as a highlight of the festival in its own right. Bella Besame’s show was one of four burlesque cabarets taking place simultaneously at venues situated within a few hundred yards of one another, and a ticket for one event could be used for all for over the course of the evening.
I considered hopping from venue to venue, but tearing myself away from Bella’s, having seen her shows before (attending regularly in Manchester) (See BURLESQUE CONTENTS) would be difficult to achieve by will power alone, jostling in and out of venues while a show was on is always distracting to performers. Moving between venues might mean missing fast moving events at each while in transit. By all accounts, the other shows were terrific too. Bella Besame’s event promised to run later than most, due to the licensing arrangements of the Subculture bar, and as the venue was already quite full at the start of the evening, I thought it best to stay put. It was a rare wise choice. As the other shows ended, Subculture got increasingly busy. Getting to the bar was to prove to be quite a challenge by the end of the night.
Subculture is a nice little bar, easily reached from my hotel for the weekend (the Central Travelodge on Vicar Lane). With seats set out in a theatre and cinema style rather than around tables. This was practical given the numbers attending. The beers were on draught, though not real ales. Service was fast and efficient.
It was great to see copies of the Breast Cancer Research charity book ULTIMATE BURLESQUE on sale here too. I’d bought a copy earlier in the evening at another festival event.
This was Slippery Belle’s 1st birthday party in Leeds. I had been to the 1st birthday event in Manchester (BURLESQUE 8) Bella is probably the only lady in Britain with more birthdays than The Queen, but then, she deserves such accolades all the more too.
Dr Sid’s music, familiar to me from many happy Manchester shows by Slippery Belle, set the mood for the night, with smooth sassy jazzy ultra-cool sounds.
Soon, however, it was showtime, and the promised surprise compere was announced by Bella – It proved to be LADY J – who had MC’d many shows I had seen in Manchester before moving off to the capital. It was great to see J in action once again. The Leeds audience obviously knew him of old too, and cheered with considerable enthusiasm.
J was clearly on form, and after an excellent comedy warm up presentation, the first performer was introduced - CECILIA ROUGE I haven’t sent his lady dance before. She came on to Tina turner’s Private Dancer, with an oversized wig, a semi-transparent housecoat, with a sleek black satin nightie underneath, and started teasing a chap in the front row by offering him flowers, then snatching them back, before throwing them at him. She then proceeded to do a deliberately bad burlesque set, snagging clothes as she disrobed, stumbling, struggling with stockings and bra-clips – You have to be good at burlesque to make doing it badly look so dammed good and no one would have mistake this comedy of errors to be anything less than precisely timed and perfected.
THE MAID was now introduced and teased mercilessly by Lady J as she cleared the stage between acts. She did a great job.
CHERRY SCORN was the next dancer, and one I remember from Manchester events. She took a Halloween theme for her first set, as a sexy witch, mixing a cauldron (of alcoholic cocktails) which made her go through a Jeckyll & Hyde transformation into less inhibited lady, so that she was happily discarding garments, right down to tassels and Happy Halloween panties.
J offered a very funny patter based on the Leeds erotica festival programme, as a stage hand clipped together a large copper tubing fish tank set-prop for the next dancer, ANNA FUR LAXIS, who I had seen performing at the festival fancy dress ball the night before. Here, she was a fish, in a beautiful orange dress, escaping from her tank, and her clothes, to dance just once, elated by her short lived freedom, gasping for air as she enjoyed her freedom, (appropriately to Jerry Lee Lewis’s Breathless0, before dying as she lost her final garment. Funny and sad at the same time. The message was simple – life is short – have a blast before you go. Too right.
The copper tubing was removed, and with some teasing from Lady J, the stage hand took a mock bow as if he was one of the greatest acts we’d seen all night, and there is no doubt that many people work hard behind the scenes at these shows to make the magic work so well.
CRIMSON SKYE, who I have seen in Manchester, presented a lively, lovely fan dance, set to Credence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon rising, posturing her derriere to the audience as the ‘Bad Moon’, though few could find the vision bad. And she moved the fans with extraordinary grace.
Drinks break followed, before part two opened with Lady J inviting the audience to help him write a limerick with rhymes for Fellatio. The word Horatio was offered quickly. I suggested ratio. He took note and introduced the first act of the second part of the show. LOLA POPS, another performer I’ve seen in Manchester, did a traditional balloon dance, in a cute sailor suit. Singer followed her quickly
MEGLA MANIA, who has a great voice and an air of Victoria wood in her comic edge timing.
CECILIA ROUGE returned to the stage now to perform a fan dance, (It amazes me how diverse a range of performances the feathers can allow for where even with different performers using them on the same night, the dance is never the same twice). For Cecilia, the pink and white feathers combined with corsetry held together with long ribbons and sashes.
Following a fan dance with a fan dance is quite daring, though CHERRY SCORN offered a much darker toned more gothic looking presentation, with black and purple fans, vertical striped stockings, and elaborate corsetry.
Part three began with Lady J successfully presenting the limerick he had composed from audience suggestions, and celebrations of the birthdays of about three audience members sharing their day with Slippery Belle.
LOLA POPS opened the final third of the show with a lovely fan dance, traditional, and graceful. ANNA FUR LAXIS followed with the stunning, clever, highly original Pony Girl set she had done at the festival masquerade. As it was easier to see here, I’ll review it in more detail from this performance.
Anna arrives on stage in a tight PVC outfit, with a saddle-corset at the waist. Her boots have horseshoes on the soles. She has a bridle in her mouth, and with the theme to the Television Black Beauty shows playing, she moves in a pony-trot. Round the stage, slowly opening up to reveal more of the woman within the costume – her breasts given modesty with the kind of rosettes presenting to the winning horse at show-jumping events.
MEGLA MANIA returned to present more songs, finishing her set with Anything Goes during which she proves herself a fabulous burlesque stripper in her own right.
CRIMSON SKYE came on ext for another balloon dance, taking out not only her own balloons with the popping needles, but those held up by most of the front row of her audience too.
CHRYSALIS was the last new act I was to see that night, and an unforgettable Boylesque performer he was to prove to be too – wearing a mackintosh and a white mask, he took theatrical masochism to new heights, snorted fake-cocaine, pushing sharp looking needles into his nostrils, tripping real mouse traps on his own fingers and then on his own tongue, making many in the audience wince and beg him not to do it. He produced a stuffed toy rabbit from a hat, magician style, and then showed off a steel spring rabbit trap. He used this on his own hands, which seemed to provoke less begging for him to stop than when he threatened to use it on the toy-rabbit. He now flossed his teeth with long elasticised looking cord, before somehow pressing it through his nose and bringing the other end out through his mouth. Ouch.
As a finale, he smashed a bottle on the stage, added what looked like sharp metal fragments and possibly razor blades, and then jumped up and down on the heap in his bare feet. In all this, he managed an element of burlesque disrobage too.
The poor Maid faced her biggest challenge in shifting the debris from this set, and she coped admirably, before the final performer was called – it proved to be less than BELLA BESAME herself, making an all too rare appearance on stage (I have seen her before at THE LAST CABARET OF IDA BUCKET and she is never less than amazing. Here she performed in sparkling diamond lined corsetry, in a fast and furious raunchy dance that ended the show on a fantastic wave of applause before Bella thanked her performers, and team members, bar staff, etc, and the music kept the party going well after I left at 3 AM.
For details of future Slippery Belle shows in Leeds, Manchester, and beyond, see http://www.myspace.com/bellabesame
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