WAM BAM at the Bloomsbury Ballroom
For someone who spends most of her non-working life in a onesie, burlesque nights are fascinating, glitzy affairs: they’re How The Other Half Live. Wam Bam’s the longest-running supper club in the country, and has spread its wings to include a new Friday night show, hosted and compered by founder Lady Alex. ‘In here,’ she announces as she mounts one of the venue’s two stages, ‘life is beautiful’. And for an evening that culminates with the entire audience singing along to Queen’s ‘We Are The Champions’, she’s not half right.
Now, I like burlesque because the music is good, there’s always dancing and everyone has a jolly good time nursing a bottle of decent plonk. But – and this has happened too often recently – the costumes have been ripped off before anyone’s had time to appreciate them, the balloons have been burst too hastily, the nipple tassles are flapping with gay abandon. Most obviously, there’s nowt for the laydees. Burlesque which tries to take itself too seriously is another problem with some of the most recent shows ER’s seen. Organisers, promoters, take note! The key is HUMOUR, and Wam Bam have nailed it. Lady Alex hosts with a commanding exuberance, and has clearly chosen her performers for reasons besides their ability to breathe fire/reveal brief glimpses of labia. Madame de Voila, the opening act, sashays on with a wide-brimmed black hat and spider’s webbing wrapped around her body: sexual but never submissive. Luggage followed: a quirky duo of gymnastic contortions, in which the sex is so much more titillating for being understated. The pair pass each other back and forth, seeming to fit around the shapes and angles of their bodies, eventually backflipping and spinning into the sole prop: a large, onstage suitcase.
Bunny Galore, described by Lady Alex as the most senior performer in the industry, offered two musical numbers: a rather louche rendition of Chicago‘s ‘When You’re Good to Mama’ and a take on ‘Do-Re-Mi’ which will no doubt send the Vatican into early, kitten-based labour. I’ve never laughed so hard during a burlesque show as during the following act, in which no clothes were removed whatsoever; instead, we were treated to fifteen minutes of comedic genius in the form of Ninia Benjamin. A woman! Talking about anal sex and handjob-induced build-ups of lactic acid! Funny! I reckon she needs her own show – but Lady Alex would be unwise to heed this advice. Up and Over It provided a finale I doubt I’ll ever forget: Irish dancing, using only their hands, beating out the Riverdance rhythm – it’s a brilliantly simple, perfectly-executed idea, hypnotic in its precision. Absolutely smashing stuff all round – thoroughly recommended.