“‘Mein Hair’, a song about pubic hair, works spectacularly, as does the ‘Freudian strip’…” It’s not flawless, writes FRANCES DOCX, but it’s way above baverage.
Corpus Playrooms, Tue 20 – Sat 24 November 9.30pm
Dir. Martha Bennett, Siân Docksey
“That’s enough guys it’s a bit weird now.” These words, muttered dismissively by Ryvita Von Teese resonated most impressively after I’d left the Playrooms this evening. The weirdness is pervasive, but undeniably spectacular.
I confess, I had watched Tab TV’s preview on Burlesque before going to see the performance, and I expected something a little baverage. The message behind the preview was ‘don’t take us too seriously’ yet, as the audience shuffled into the awkward right angle of the Playrooms’ seats we were met with a sultry double-bass accompanying the scowling-serious faces of ‘ac-tors.’ There seemed to be too much effort, too much sincerity.
Yet, I was sold the second all three Burlesque girls executed a conspicuous coke-snort timed to Jeff Carpenter’s giddy piano accompaniment. The production just gathered in ridiculousness as Saul Boyer bounds on stage for the express purpose of revealing his leopard-print thong.
My reservations lie with the tone. It is perhaps a little elusive; the ‘don’t take us too seriously’ ethos is sometimes undermined in slower, faux-emotional scenes such as Galatea Divine’s mournful ballad and the occasional side-step into political satire. It’s as if the production is not exactly sure what it’s trying to be- other than weird. But actually, this is forgivable; I didn’t come with expectations of coherence, Aristotelian unities, plot depth or complexity, I came in the hopes of some light relief and comedy. This, Burlesque delivers.
The production taps in to a very simple strain of humour, slapstick at times, often visual and a little bit risqué, but sometimes simplicity is the most effective route and Burlesque succeeds in exposing us at our most infantile levels. ‘Mein Hair’, a song about pubic hair, works spectacularly, as does the ‘Freudian strip’ and precarious pinning of balloons to evocative body parts. The Thatcher song and burlesque girl audition similarly reach new hilarious levels of absurdity. Odd, though, was the ‘alarming’ ending to the production- it is not my place to provide spoilers but this dubious method did leave me with a disconcerting taste in my mouth – until the cast’s enthusiasm rescued the momentum and gave the whole audience a fantastic al fresco send-off.
Burlesque aggressively exceeds your expectations at every turn: just when you think they won’t go there, they do. And then they go much further, they lick chocolate sauce off it. There’s something ugly and weird about it, but there’s also something utterly compelling. It’s like seeing a cow defecate: you sort of have to keep watching despite yourself. Burlesque is far from good-quality theatre, it is not a veritable display of finely honed acting, nor is every note hit bang on every time, but that’s the point. I can’t help but wish Burlesque had been performed in week 5 as the cast’s utter enthusiasm is the perfect antidote to anything a Cambridge term can throw at you.