The tricky thing about burlesque is that one never knows if it's going to be terrible. It's gathered new audiences in the past decade, and has become more widespread as a style of performance. It's relatively new (not to ER, of course, fnar) but to theatrical companies who might have cottoned onto a winner and started to dabble the proverbial toe. So yes, a blossoming industry – helped along by a renewed interest in cabaret and variety shows – but a spit and shoe polish enterprise nonetheless, which in my book makes it that much more impressive when it's pulled off. And this is – Chic Bonbons is entertaining, it's sexy and it's fun.
Murphy, an American film student in his early 20s is living with his partner, Omi, and their child in Paris as he laments the breakup with his ex-girlfriend, Elektra. He receives a voicemail from Elektra’s mother telling him that she’s gone missing. Instead of going out to look for his ex, he indulges in a set of opium-induced flashbacks.
Remember the fairytale about the girl and the penis bush? No, me neither. But the premises of the nine and a half “fairytales” in Grow A Pair are swollen with surreal eroticism and a weird, lavish imagination. As well as harking back to horny early puberty fantasies, the stories in Joanna Walsh’s collection also resound with tender-hearted humour, aimed at adults whose sexual flights of fancy has been curtailed to the “most private thing I’m willing to admit” field on an internet dating site. Grow A Pair is a short story collection a little like The Bloody Chamber after a couple of gins. ‘A girl passed a penis-bush growing in someone else’s garden, and picked a ripe dick because she couldn’t resist it’ – it grins at you from page one.
I have found yet another evidence that London is the centre of the world. This time it is a book of images from Lebanon, curated and brought together by a Pole. A Lebanese Archive is a collection of images from the personal collection of of Lebanese emigre Diab Alkarssifi. Most of them are anonymous, giving the book a ghostly quality, yet making it a window into lives of others. The others that we may never get to know, but we, in this book, get the chance to see them frozen in a frame.
Measure for Measure is more than what critics have dubbed a "problem play" – it's completely baffling, and a brave choice for any director to try and tackle. Joe Hill-Gibbins' production is very Young Vic – alternative, edgy, and starring an extended cast of about a hundred blow-up sex dolls. Vienna lies in moral tatters, and the Duke is horrified. He privately elects to go about disguised, telling Angelo, his deputy, to pull the city's socks up in his absence. Meanwhile Claudio, a young man accused of lechery, is thrown into the stocks to await the death sentence. His sister, the convent-girl Isabella, begs Angelo for mercy – and is denied it, unless she commits the very act for which her brother is condemned. She refuses.
It’s a bit like having sex with Batman’s body armour (don’t ask me how I know what this feels like). It looks like a robotic trilobite that could find its own docking station if you asked it nicely. My partner compared it to the thing that clamped itself over John Hurt’s face in Alien, which I thought was unfair. It has two independent motors and costs around ninety quid. It’s waterproof, so you can use it in the shower (recommended). It’s reassuringly heavy. It’s the slickly-designed rechargeable Hot Octopuss PULSE 2 Duo Vibrating Male Masturbator, boasting new PulsePlate technology and it can be used with lube or dry. It’s a lot of fun with a partner (if something has to come between you, it might as well be this), but possibly more of a warm-up toy than a 0-60 orgasm aid.
Stratford is a strange, dead place after dark. The roads are straight and empty, lined with fancy new tower blocks in all directions, with only the occasional window lit. It’s hard to imagine anything living, let alone creating art in this cold and impersonal landscape. Which in some ways makes it the perfect setting for Mark Storor’s new play, The Barometer of My Heart, a disturbing and raw exploration of masculinity, potency and its constant companion, impotency. Erectile dysfunction is a common condition that is often kept hidden and undiscussed, behind closed doors and hardened exteriors; Storor’s play aims to bring this male experience from the shadows into the light.
Let’s face it boys, to be a white male in 2015 is, frankly, unfashionable. Yet here’s a film that makes Clarkson’s Top Gear look like a vicar’s tea party with extra doilies. La Grande Bouffe is about male physiology and psychology in all its full glory and horror.
Former president Clinton, a masturbating nun and the Boston strangler walk into a rehabilitation centre. While this may sound like the start of a vaguely offensive joke, these individuals are among the case studies featured in the ever-growing sex addiction literature.
I went with a guy so red-blooded he made Daniel Craig look quite girly. His only entertainment came not so much from Mr Tatum’s expert dance moves as the expression of glee plastered over my face throughout. Unfortunately this movie had the opposite effect of what I was hoping for. Instead of getting the message that I, as a woman, needed a man to exalt and pleasure me, this chap’s reaction was merely to ask whether he should spend more time pumping his pecs down at Virgin Active. No, you idiot - ask me what my fantasy is, listen and then throw me down onto a bed, tell me you love the taste of me and fuck me like I’m the sweetest peach you’ve ever had. That’s what Magic Mike would do.