Arts Theatre, London WC2
Opened 3 May, 2005

There’s something about sex. Take an ordinary bad show, add an attempt at sexy, and you get a real cringe-fest.  Several years ago, the “lipstick lesbian” musical Voyeurz was just toe-curlingly awful. Perhaps the worst Edinburgh Fringe show I ever saw was The Toilet Of Venus, which consisted of two talentless slappers in a bath.  And now there’s this spectacularly pointless pile of posing ’n’ pouting.

Burlesque is not quite striptease (though I counted nine strip routines in this two-hour show), nor is it quite vaudeville. It’s candid, sure, but not outright brazenly in-yer-face.  In short, it’s nothing very much in this day and age. That’s the problem.  Nudity and sex (two different things) are commonplace onstage now. A show like this therefore needs to find an area in which it can excel. It doesn’t.

This show doesn’t put an original slant on things: quite the reverse, it’s utterly traditional. For innovation, you’d much better see Duckie, a company based at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.  Nor is it sharply executed: the moves are enthusiastic rather than polished, the chorus’s dancing reminiscent less of Bob Fosse than of Legs & Co.  And its camp is of an unimaginative, leaden kind when it needs to be fresh.

Ms Blaize is a beefy girl who flaunts what she has, as if this course of action were admirable in itself.  Walter is similarly self-regarding as he takes every opportunity to strip down to his stockings and peddle some coy patter. Yawn. He lacks the raw sex of Jeremy Vine as Frank N. Furter.  The most engaging performer is the “spesh”, Spike Loons, although even he palls when he balloon-sculpts a willy.

There were whoops from the press-night audience, but they must have been mates. The simple truth is that this ragged throwback overreaches itself, and there’s no West End market for it.  The show is co-produced by Trevor Beattie, the ad-man who created the FCUK campaign. This similarly gets the F-word-related stuff badly wrong.  Beattie may think it’s big or clever. It’s not. It’s annoying. Please stop.

Written for Teletext.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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