“Get your tushies onto your seats!” Miss Polly Rae instructs her already enraptured audience. She is our host for the next hour and a half, and I very willingly get comfortable on my chair, helping myself to a fistful of peanuts that have been left for us to snack on. In my other hand is the programme. This is my first burlesque show, and I’m trying not to feel too anxious about the emboldened word ‘Games’, which sits squarely in the middle. Will we have to play? What will these beautiful, talented women make us do?
I shuffle a little, trying my best to hide myself behind my date whilst still having a good view of the stage.
When Miss Polly asks the ‘Burlesque virgins’ to reveal themselves, I’m still too nervous to throw my hand in the air, but I am buoyed by the confidence with which other people own up. There are smiles on a lot of faces. Being yourself feels obligatory in a setting like this: these performers are putting themselves out there for us, and their unreservedness slowly reaches even the most apprehensive audience member (ie; me). As long as I don’t have to take part in any game, I tell myself, I’m happy to be picked on and – fingers crossed – flirted with.
There are three performers – not including Miss Polly and her adorable co-host, Lilly Snatchdragon – and each will perform twice. Dinah Might, the night’s headliner, will be performing last both times. I had never heard of her, but some quick googling before the show has me wriggling in anticipation. Soon, though, I am so wrapped up in Evelyn Carnate’s hilarious opening performance that all my wriggles are entirely for her. She swans gracefully onto the stage, bedecked in pink and white feathers, and begins what at first seems to be a fairly straight-faced lip-sync. Before long she is writhing on the floor, imitating orgasm after orgasm whilst out of the speakers resounds: ‘Do it again!’ I am laughing and clapping my hands with genuine glee.
It is during the second half of the show that I feel the other two performers really shine. The games have just ended, and I’m silently sending up prayers of thanks to whichever deity saved me from being chosen to go up on stage and learn a dance routine including moves such as the ‘bum floss’, whilst Lilly narrates, at one point drawing attention to Miss Polly’s ‘labia of steel’. Then, Maleficent Martini is back on stage to perform a strip tease that has my jaw dropping in awe. To my bewilderment, she is able to make putting clothes on look sexy, and I am flapping my hands at my date, asking ‘How does she do that?’ I’m glad I have my notebook out – turns out it’s useful at a burlesque show, even if you’re not writing a review.
Miss Polly Rae sings us a song to build us up before Dinah Might’s closing number, and I finally feel relaxed enough not to shrink back as she makes her way around the tables to sit on people’s laps and chuck them under the chin. She momentarily lowers herself onto my date before springing up, wide-eyed, and indicating the size of him to the rest of the room. I get a wink and a ‘lucky girl’, and, to my surprise, feel pleased at having been included, rather than wanting to quietly die. I suppose it helped that I hadn’t actually been in the main line of fire.
And now, the grand finale. Dinah Might walks back on stage to a jazzed up version of ‘Heigh-Ho’ and wearing neon builders’ gear. Something fizzes in my brain and I think, dazedly, that I’d probably let her bulldoze my house if she wanted. She begins to strip with such confident finesse that I am practically slamming my fist on the table in an exclamation of, ‘This is art!’ At one point, my date whispers to me that he never realised zips could be so sexual – she pulls the one on her top down and up again, thrusting her hips, and leaving us all half laughing, half groaning. The punch line, sexy and hysterical, arrives when she momentarily shows us her back, only to spin round again with two bright orange cones over her breasts. I am thrilled.
Understandably, Dinah Might’s re-entrance onto the stage for the final bow is slightly delayed, as I presume it takes a few moments to gather yourself after such a performance. No one minds, and the applause is loud. By the end, we are all on our feet, hands together, and I am already mentally planning when I might be able to attend my second cabaret.