London Burlsque Festival
As is common and unique about Burlesque shows to other performances is the intimacy. For those who are used to seeing burlesque and enjoy this element, the idea of seeing more and more flesh in such a small venue would only encourage, but for others, it can be daunting. Bringing a Burlesque virgin along with me, I was keen to employ my knowledge as a trained burlesque performing (who is awaiting enough time in her current wonderfully busy life to reprise her alter ego for the public) but aware that this could open a new horizon for him.
Choosing Mondo Galactica, I thought that this would be an easy and approachable theme to introduce my geeky friend to. But who was I kidding? There’s nothing shy, retiring or otherwise not in your face (sometimes quite literally) about any burlesque show.
Performers need little else but their talent in this unique form of artistic expression and dance combined with their glamorous and at times comical costumes and make up. Mondo Galactica was one of many London Burlesque festival shows, this specifically catering to the nerds among us.
With an abundance of metallic, shiny, silver, green and so on, we were transported into many areas of cultural Sci Fi. Some performers linked to identifiable themes such as a fantastic Boylesque group, where the men very differently to common Burlesque/Boylesque took items off but not to be naked, but in the way of transforming into different nods to classical Sci Fi, such as the evolution of man and Planet of the Apes. Their synchronicity and enjoyment of their elaborate scene changes did not take away the lacking in the lack of clothing and skin on show. This example trumping those who profess Burlesque acts as glorified strip routines.
Other’s showed strip teasing Robots or Space cadets, including one with a nod to Star Trek, yet all had a versatility and different way of alluring the audience. In this industry and especially this specific show, it is hard to compare acts with the abundance of ways that it is possible to entertain in a sexy way , and of which was evident in the different dance techniques and interactions with the audience.
Finally, one of the most important and fun part of Burlesque shows is the audience interaction. A short and amateur master class for these untrained willingly volunteered audience members showed us their version of what they had – shaking the booty, bumping and grinding and interaction with the rest of us. Encouraging us to clap and cheer, the continued encouragement to vocally and physically participant in this show came with this easiness to relate to the current people on stage.
While specifically catered with the theme, the London Burlesque Shows or Burlesque shows over all always have something for everyone. Whether participating or not, this welcoming community will turn anyone into a new view of life – my friend, with not so many words quoted in saying ‘You know what? I REALLY loved that!!!’.
High up in the God’s, this wonderful theatre (The Savoy) is currently housing the renowned and critically acclaimed ‘Gypsy’ starring Imelda Staunton. With tickets selling fast, it was understandable that such a lengthy theatre in height was filling up every night, and so my interest continued escalating.
The story behind Gypsy is based upon true events of the Burlesque actress, Gypsy Rose Lee. Taken from her memoirs, the musical sees the hardship and struggle of Louise (later to become Gypsy) as the shadow of her performing sister, and her determined Mother, struggling to keep grips with her youth and dream of stardom. Events take place, where Rose and Gypsy happen to be in the right place at the right time to perform in the House of Burlesque, where Gypsy is created. This tale of triumph, difficult beginnings and relationships hits every nerve and every feeling.
The staging itself was beautiful and very clever. Scenes appeared and disappeared with a never ending back stage, floating into the shadows and were simple yet effective in illustrating the different areas. No expense has been spared on these ever changing scenes which are rarely used twice, to bring the sense of the character’s constant travelling. Lighting beautifully enhanced specific characters and areas, drawing your eye to the correct moment and to the specific details of the performance. Costumes were also relatable to the times and enhanced each character’s personality correctly. The end costumes of Gypsy, are astounding and lavish – what every vintage loving girl dreams of wearing (including myself!).
Of course, a review could not be written without mentioning Ms Staunton herself. And where could I start? Well known in the acting world, some may have seen her in the likes of Vera Drake and the more contemporary, Harry Potter- it is well known what a fantastic actress she is and the passion and creative skill she has for her characters and projects. However, to see her as Rose, the mother in Gypsy, is something different. Something spell bounding. To quote a patron I heard on the night:
‘I knew she could act but… I didn’t know she could do that! THAT was … something else!’.
Staunton has what myself was unknown of, and that is an incredible voice! Singing every song sent shivers down your spine; her final song, ‘Rose’s Turn’ raised every goose bump and every hair.
Laura Pulver, as Gypsy also brought an amazing depth to the show. Perhaps easy to be in the shadow of Staunton, she makes Gypsy her own and stands out in her own right. Known for shows such as Sherlock and Robin Hood, Pulver brings a completely difference essence to the stage than what you see on television. Her dramatic change from mousey Louise, slowly to sultry Gypsy Rose Lee is fantastic in her change of personality, look, body language and even change in her voice. She shows, simplistically but in a very talented way the growth in age and maturity of the character, so convincingly that it is hard to forget this truth when you feel as if you are growing with her.
If you do anything with yourself till November, make a date with Gypsy. The musical will take you under her spell as Gypsy Rose Lee was known well to do herself.