House of Burlesque has done it again. The team behind this year’s Edinburgh sellout sensation Circus Burlesque has turned Soho club Madame Jojo’s into a desert island where marooned beauties parade sassy routines, bawdy comedy and tongue-in-cheek songs to idle away their tropical exile.
Audiences are once again in the capable hands of Tempest Rose. Throwing decorum to the wind, the hostess keeps singles and couples at the edge of their seats with her tantalizing teases and unshakeable poise. As resourceful as she is brash, Ms. Rose has no qualms about abusing members of the public in games like an onstage dressing competition, and belts out a solid tune with standards like Betty Hutton’s Stuff Like That There or I Put A Spell on You, the latter a slow, languid shuffle more than matched by a provocative strip.
Betsy Rose returns to shower the stage in petals with every item of clothing removed, gracefully alternating between pointe shoes and high heels (sometimes changing onstage as part of her act). Her flawless vintage looks echo with a dainty, congenial charisma and easy humour in acts like a strip to Mud’s Tiger Feet, complete with clawed gloves.
Spectators are invariably left awestruck when contortionist Tiina struts her stuff. She contributes a compelling two-cane balancing act, but it is with a candid one-hoop acrobatic routine that the circus belle shines brightest. Her bit ingeniously brings the hoop to life, effectively rendering it a dance partner she can interact with and react to in a beautiful choreography. Low-key, enigmatic backing track choices like Björk’s Bachelorette and Meg’s Regno d’Acqua only add to the all-enveloping atmosphere of a clever number that draws a powerful dramatic effect out of minimal elements. Truly unmissable.
Lola LaBelle’s effortless elegance bristles with spellbinding charm. Her enthralling fan dances, matched to ostrich or pheasant feathers for a sweet or hot effect, brim with languid sensuality. Whether enhancing her routines with sylphlike ribbon-twirling or endearingly grinding in unison with the syncopated accents of Anita O’Day’s An Occasional Man or Fever, the brunette bombshell’s seamless numbers are consistent displays of lush, mesmerizing femininity.
The comic side of Shipwrecked! greatly relies on Luke Meredith’s satirical repertoire. Clad in a sailor outfit or his trademark pink robe, the nonchalant pianist’s cheeky compositions wrings bouts of laughter from unsuspecting audiences, coating everything from X-Factor gossip to Royal indiscretions with an irresistible, taboo-busting veneer of camp salaciousness. His moustachioed Tom-of-Finland looks, oddly enough, prove especially popular among the ladies, who can often drown his singing with cheering and whooping during the odd stripping bits of his shameless act.
Shipwrecked! is utterly absorbing fun and frolic for both the easily shocked and the easily bored. Humour and sensuality are not often mixed this cannily. Pitching the three burlesque belles against each other in cheeky pantomime, the opening and closing numbers could do more with their formidable performers and propitious props – the routine where the ladies peek jealously at the contents of each other’s suitcases, for instance, barely taps its limitless possibilities. That, however, does not prevent the show from offering a profusion of sass and cheek you’ll be hard-pressed to match, even in Soho.
Shipwrecked! Conceived and performed by Lola LaBelle’s House of Burlesque. Madame Jojo’s, London. 11 November, 19:30. £10. www.madamejojos.com
Photo credits: Derek Bremner