When Mat Fraser hosts a show, you know it won’t be an affair for the squeamish. The twisted shock crooner and Canadian burlesquer Trixie Malicious run Sleaze, a New-York-style revue of tasteless irreverence and edgy humour. Stay away if you’re afraid of laughing too hard at antics too inappropriate.
True to the stateside tradition it subscribes to, the show takes the form of unpretentious entertainment performed at close quarters with (and often amidst) the audience, in a small and intimate lounge bar. Quite narrow for a UK variety venue, Camden’s Lockside Lounge has just the right atmosphere to complement the concept, enhancing public interaction in its cramped space.
Sleaze is the kind of show that takes risks in tone and execution, so bills can be uneven. Invariably amusing, Fraser wrangles even the most unruly crowds with a firm hand and puts out memorable turns in double acts with the likes of Julie Atlas Muz and Emerald Fontaine. Joined by athletic tranny chanteuse Miss Cairo, he launches into hair-raising raunchy exploits. Malicious, though, ruins the comedy of her scorned drinking wife burlesque routine with awkward pacing and random bursts of choreography. Bristol vaudevillian Keda Breeze puts on an ambitious mix of striptease, fire-swallowing and go-go dancing, but performs it blandly and mechanically.
A regular on US stages, Fraser often drafts New-York-based headliners. November’s was Jonny Porkpie (from Grab My Junk). His follow-up, fellow boylesquer Go-Go Harder. As in his crowd-pleasing skit at London Burlesque Week’s Boylesque Night, the beau seduces and repels ladies and gents with good-boy caricatures gone bad. Aggressively sexual and scatological, Harder is a charming, defiant and exuberant act.
The greatest payoff from risqué shows like this is the enthusiastic crowds they attract – Sleaze audiences bite back. Comprising scene regulars, fellow performers and vocal underground types, patrons promptly reply to teases, passionately sing along and eagerly submit to ritual humiliation well above the cabaret average, with or without clothes (bare-bottom birthday spankings are a fledgling tradition). The resulting atmosphere makes Sleaze a potent antidote to supper clubs filled with couples cheering politely to yet another empowering fan dance.
Last I checked, shows this kinky – all nipples remained resolutely untasselled – violated Manhattan’s burlesque licences. Sleaze might be too hot for New York. But the uncompromising spirit of Gotham variety is unmistakable: they’ll even ask you to tip, and comically rebuke you if you don’t. With tickets costing measly three quid, you’d better cough up some dough, you cheap scumbag.
Sleaze. Hosted by Mat Fraser and Trixie Malicious. Lockside Lounge Bar & Grill, Camden, London. First Wednesday of the month, 21:00. £3. www.matfraser.com
Photos courtesy of the performers