Slide Cabaret Club is a diamond in the rough and tumble of Oxford Street’s nightclub district. High ceilings, cherubic chandeliers and lustrous lighting give an atmosphere of glamour that’s a world away from Sydney’s usual dark basement bar ambience of a burlesque club. Most burlesque promoters in the UK would give their nipple tassels for a ballroom like this – so they would be spitting feathers to know that The Peel is primarily a new act night.
The night is billed as giving virgin performers the “chance to strut their stuff alongside special guests and established artists.” Whatever the ethics of reviewing a night that features debut artistes in the mix, I believe that some of the emerging acts I saw at The Peel could give the pros a run for their money. Although the quality was undeniably variable, there was a wealth of talent and despite the concerns of the shows organisers (who refused to co-operate in this review after I declined to give them pre-approval of my copy), Erotic Review believes talent should be scrutinised and celebrated.
After a very late start, the night was ably held together by Lauren LaRouge, who in turn was ably held together with a dress made of ‘fragile’ packing tape (“I call it the rapists delight because I’m not going anywhere in a hurry,” she quipped). With her honey skin and curly blonde hair LaRouge looks like a naughty Doris Day but sounds like a ribald sailor. However, with 15 (!) acts to get through and six-inch heels to stand on, even the sauciest of MCs can get tiring.
Highlights of the first half included Antoinette La’Noir. Although her act was introduced as “Marie Antoinette-inspired” her costume was late-Victorian-frontier, but historical inaccuracies aside it was a bold, confident performance. La’Noir’s mesmerising ability to pull fans from nowhere was up there with the best sleight-of-hand magician’s. Also definitely worth a second look was Schatzi Sunshine, a heavily pierced rock chick who brought attitude and edginess to the art of fan dancing. Strutting like a peacock, she owned the stage and rightly won the respect of the crowd.
After another protracted break for cocktails it was time for the second half. Seker Pare wins my Best Dancer of the Year (so far) Award for her fan routine. Her sensual moves made the whole audience pant and by the end of her performance there wasn’t a dry seat in the house. Boylesque act Charlie Sanguine may have been a stage debut, but in another world he is clearly an accomplished street performer. His 1920s-Chicago-mobster-meets-Tom-Cruise-in-Cocktail routine was a definite winner with the ladies in the audience. Despite almost setting his jacket alight with a fire-eating torch, this was a slick, assured performance and I’m certain he will become a fixture on the Australian scene.
Standout act of the night for me was Deb Delicious, who stole the show with some of the best character burlesque I have seen in a while. A seasoned act with horn-rimmed glasses fresh out of Gary Larsson’s Far Side comic books, Delicious’s sozzled 50s Canberra housewife routine is superb, combining excellent comic ‘drunk’ acting and some of the best tassel work in the Southern Hemisphere. She ended the night by pulling a cocktail umbrella from somewhere unspeakable. The crowd went wild.
The night was not without issues and although it was The Peel’s first night in a new home there were a number of technical hitches that a quick test of the new equipment beforehand could have avoided. At times, the venue’s smoke machine pumped out at a volume that hasn’t been witnessed since Cliff Richard appeared on Top of the Pops in the early 80’s. My main gripe, however, was that a dearth of stage hands, combined with a general lack of discipline in the time-keeping department meant the audience were often left waiting ten minutes between acts. The show over-ran by a good hour more than was necessary. This could all be easily fixed.
I suspect The Peel’s organiser, Holly J’aDoll would disagree that it needs fixing: “We like to keep it rough and unpolished,” she said. And while I applaud their mission to “provide a safe, supportive and positive space for new and emerging performers alike,” I can’t help but think that in such a professional venue a little bit of sharpening is needed in the general running of the night itself. But not in the acts, Holly, the acts are fine.
The Peel. Organised by Holly J’aDoll. Slide Cabaret Bar, Sydney, Australia. 27 April, 19:30. $18.95. www.slide.com.au
Photo credits: Allyeska Photography (headshots), Seker Pare live shot courtesy of the performer