Apprehensive, is the best word I can use to describe our feelings heading to the Theatre Royal Wakefield for An Evening of Burlesque. Burlesque for me conjures up images of burlesque superstar Dita Von Teese, the Moulin Rouge and prohibition-era America. But there is a definite danger of edging over into trashy or crass, and as a firm supporter of gender equality, I could understand that there is a perception that burlesque marginalises women as sexual objects. Nonetheless, with an open mind Georgie and I ventured to be ‘teased and titillated’ with An Evening of Burlesque.
The evening was hosted by burlesque queen Miss Polly Rae, exuding sex appeal and charm, welcoming the audience firmly into her boudoir. A witty, sassy and obviously dedicated performer, Miss Polly served as a great compere for the evening’s antics, engaging with the audience and paying particular attention to us burlesque virgins as she ‘popped our cherry’. Not only a fabulous burlesque artiste, Miss Polly is also a spectacular singer, treating us to a number of musical renditions including Peggy Lee’s ‘Fever’, and a particular highlight, her very own ‘It’s Not About the Tits’ making light of the perception of burlesque, and alluding to the showmanship involved.
Accompanied by the skilled Folly Mixtures, Miss Polly Rae proceeded to introduce a number of solo performances, including an incredible hula display, tap themed performance and some traditional burlesque favourites including war-time dolly birds, a seductive fan dance and of course, a Martini Glass striptease. Male performers injected a bit of comic relief, with a truly captivating escape performance on a unicycle and a bizarre routing featuring an enormous balloon – seriously, I don’t know what to tell you about this: picture a 6ft, muscular man climbing into a giant green latex ball and bouncing around the stage.
The Theatre Royal is not necessarily a venue you’d expect to see a sexy burlesque show, but the cast were obviously very at home there, with the opulent surroundings further adding to the decadent, ‘boudoir’ vibe. We left the show after a couple of hours surprised at how much we had both enjoyed the showmanship, but also laughed along with our performers. Burlesque is an art that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and crucially promotes and ignites a positivity, encouraging everyone, whether big, small, curvy or slim to embrace and accept their bodies, appearance and sexuality. Considering this, it’s not at all surprising that the women in the audience vastly outweighed the men. With the audience made up of girlfriends, couples, work mates and individuals from all walks of life, a burlesque show is definitely one of those things I would recommend everyone experiences once in their life, if for nothing else than the positivity it inspires.