Sinner Saint Burlesque
I have always heard great things about Seattle burlesque so, when asked to review Sinner Saint Burlesque at the Brickhouse, I naturally jumped at the chance. I was, however, to be disappointed.
My complaints started with the non-dining seats available. If you don’t have the money to get a table for the evening, your view will be limited and awkward. Spread across three levels, the venue’s clinical white decor seems far removed from the intimate atmosphere I have come to expect of burlesque shows. The size and layout of the place make it difficult for a host or performer to engage with the audience, suggesting that the show is incidental to the dining experience.
I had been promised ‘the best Burlesque America has to offer.’ If that is the case, I hope tonight was just a bad show. Although two of the girls stood out, it felt altogether tired and lacklustre, confirming the thought that you’re paying for fine dining rather than glamorous entertainment. It didn’t help either that host Nicole Lucas’s deadpan delivery and material required explanations for a non-American audience. Not even promising the public ‘naked ladies’ could grab their attention. Her comedy is better suited to stand-up gigs.
The opening act and, apparently, the whole show was inspired and curated to complement Greg Holloway’s Electric Burlesque exhibition, currently on display at the Brickhouse. However, I could see little evidence of this inspiration after the first number. Holloway’s art is a collection of backlit colour prints of burlesque artistes. Apart from the opening routine by the Sinner Saint ladies, clad in glow-in-the-dark, neon underwear, I saw no more reference to his prints except for the host’s mention of it.
The first eye-catching moment of the evening was the passionate volcano routine by Evilyn St Claire, an elegant and at times almost tribal dance with a beautifully sensual use of silk fans. Her second act could not have been more different: I never thought of Miss Piggy as a stripteaser, but St Claire’s turn as the porcine princess changed my mind.
Another name that stood out was Jesse Belle Jones. Billed as ‘The Modern Sexual Intellectual’, I expected clever and elegant numbers, and she did not disappoint. Her dancing is beautiful, and both her Chaplin-esque hobo act and sensuously gymnastic cat routine had me wanting to see more from her.
I liked the ideas and inspiration behind all of the acts, even if the delivery lacked enthusiasm and engagement. A particularly successful one was the routine based on the legend of Empress Wu Hu, who passed a law demanding that men show respect by performing cunnilingus on her. Doña Dei Cuori brings the tale to life with the clever use of golden masks and extremely erotic choreography. Unfortunately for the poor girl the audience still seemed more focused on their dinner than on her raunchy tease.
All in all, it was a disappointing show with a few good acts. I would gladly see this band of belles again in a different bill, and in a venue better suited to their style of burlesque. Fresh routines and a more intimate locale would benefit these girls immensely.
Sinner Saint Burlesque. Hosted by Nicole Lucas. The Brickhouse, London. 8-19 March, 20:30. £8-50. http://www.thebrickhouse.co.uk
Photo credits: Greg Holloway