The Night of the Blue Stockings
Like the homonymous eighteenth-century gathering of art-loving ladies, the Blue Stocking Society infuses its evenings of cabaret and burlesque entertainment with a strong discourse of female empowerment. But irreverent song and dance, not political rants, are the tools favoured by these ladies to further their cause.
Reconvened by cabaret diva Tricity Vogue and burlesque-clown sensation Audacity Chutzpah, the Society holds a monthly rendezvous called The Night of The Blue Stockings. Its richly varied guest acts display a common penchant for tongue-in-cheek provocation.
Anti-burlesque champion Ophelia Bitz (formerly from cabaret duo The Lowest Common Denominators) performs two songs, which, in her trademark expletive-laden delivery, can be anything from a jab at angry feminists to a dainty love letter to a lover she wishes dead. But it’s as the evening’s hostess that Ms. Bitz shines brightest. Wielding her controversial repertoire with brazen confidence, she exerts a comfortable control over the public, as demonstrated by the Society’s initiation rites: two prospective members are chosen from the audience to engage in a cunnilingus competition, in which they have one minute to please a sliced kiwi fruit to the best of their sexual prowess.
The bill also includes Lambchop Magoo’s bizarre comedy-burlesque hybrid, where a comparison between the hardships of burlesque and math yield the most inventive calculations since Lewis Caroll’s novels, and Helen Arney, whose comic songs of love gone awry entice as much for their candid humour as for her stripped-down ukulele arrangements.
But it is with Bijoux Noir that the evening reaches its climax. The black burlesque belle’s homage to Josephine Baker is an exquisite extravaganza of jungle dancing (complete with the banana skirt) and ribbon twirling, to the sound of the legendary crooner’s classic “Ram Pam Pam”. Noir’s facetious expression and spot-on choreography exude a casual, irresistible congeniality, while her work with the ribbons is nothing short of mesmerizing. Her other act of the night, a pageant to the French Revolution, does not enjoy the same vivacity. Despite its amusing costume and clever use of glitter (as well as her wig’s talcum powder), it feels a bit slow, especially during the fan dance.
This cunning revue proves a fun night out doesn’t have to be inane, and art with a message doesn’t have to lapse into rambling speechmaking. Rather than preaching to the converted, the show provides compelling entertainment to intelligent audiences not easily shocked.
The Night of The Blue Stockings is moving from its customary slot at Volupté Lounge to the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, where it will become a regular engagement on the last Thursday of every month. There’s no telling what will happen when the Blue Stockings go blue collar, but judging from the havoc they got away with at a posh City restaurant, you’re advised to leave your PC pants at home.
The Night of the Blue Stockings. Conceived and performed by The Blue Stocking Society and guests. Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, London. 28 October, 20:00. £15. www.workersplaytime.net