|Beautiful hats and fascinators|
by Looby Creations
People worry that burlesque is just an excuse for sleazy strip-tease. In fact it is a witty caricature, simultaneously sending up our fears about sex and celebrating real women's bodies and our sexuality. With its gender bending politics and intellectual rather than physical strip-tease, cabaret and burlesque is an ideal filler for a theatre like the Sherman to put in between earnest new plays and the kids' Christmas shows, providing something that's adult and emotionally mature.
Burlesque is the mirror opposite of strip-tease. In strip-tease, women are the objects of Desire; in burlesque we are the subjects of our own desire to enjoy showing our bodies and our selves. The 1st International Welsh Cabaret Festival showcased this particularly well with the inclusion of several male acts - who were not stripping for women in a reverse strip-tease. They were often engaging with more feminine sides of themselves, e.g. through balletic movements - again providing a subjective celebratory vision of feminine sides to identity.
Burlesque is a liberatory subversive artform, of the kind the critic Bakhtin called carnivalesque.
OK, enough of that, now for what I thought of the actual festival:
After having wandered the foyer and seeing some of the cool workshops going on, I now regret not splashing out on a weekender ticket and doing some sketching or finding out how to put my hair up in a barrel roll. Plus, I overheard people saying the Friday Night new acts were possibly even better than the Saturday Night Gala performers! I don't see how that could be possible - curses, I will know better next year.
As well as workshops, there were stalls selling everything from cakes to sex toys, and I shall decorate this blogpost with my pictures of these. A quick thank you to kind Rockaflower, who pitched in to help when we were struggling to fix the new fascinator my friend couldn't resist buying to her short hair. Great job! it stayed standing proud and high all night.
|My own |
The evening kicked off with the ... inimitable compère Dis Charge. Sticking one finger up at taboos in a first act which was a belly dance of a very different kind (pregnancy will never seem quite the same!), Ms. Charge kept us going through the evening with sharp sarky banter. She actually used the F word once! (Feminism). Her style is in your face (literally - so glad we were sitting in the middle of a row of seats) and very funny.
Act 1 saw Lilly Laudanum doing a majestic Queen Victoria strip tease, hilariously mingling po-faced dignity with crude sexual gestures. Daisy Cutter followed with an incredible and exciting bum dance, of a kind which would lead you to beg people to assure you that you do look big in that outfit. Sandy Sure as a Mexican wrestler sent up macho man and Tuesday Laveau offered a delicious feminine dance.
|Awww - cute penguins by Cathy B|
Pole dancing has had an even worse press than burlesque dancing, with people grumbling about women who go to classes because it's good exercise and - for God's sake - fun. In fact, I'm sorry to say that at one time I signed a petition against pole dancing classes in my institution of employment as at the time I did feel it perhaps wasn't quite the feminist thing. Sir Midnight Blues provided a dance of athletic elegance and beauty. He made plainly evident that this is a discipline demanding both grace and muscular fitness.
|Hairpieces by Rockaflower|
After an interval during which we started laughing again at the thoughts of Kiki DeVille's Let It Go, there were a couple of Welsh themed acts. In typical self-mocking style, Betty Blue Eyes appeared on stage in a whale costume and sadly held up a sign saying she realised now this wasn't what had been meant when they said do something about being in Wales. If you think staggering about the stage in a clumsy whale costume is not sexy as well as funny, you must beg Betty to reprise her hilarious act - which finished with her bending over to show off dragon-emblazoned knickers to whooping and raucous applause.
|Tea party in aid of |
Breast Cancer Care
Although I did mainly go for the burlesque, this was a genuine cabaret night and so, unusually, there were a lot of men performers including the gorgeous George Orange tightrope-walking across a metal rocking structure. In contrast, next was Lady Francesca who performed a hilariously funny duckling dance, complete with enormous bouffant red hair.
|Cake by Bombshell Bakehouse|
A feisty finale was provided by Aurora Galore as a wild circus ringmaster - flinging her black hair and her gold tasseled red tails about.
|Jewellery by Melissa's Boutique|
And we don't have long to wait! Never mind Christmas, it's only 27 sleeps til the "Selection Box" Christmas burlesque party on 20th December. Tickets a mere £12 from Cardiff Cabaret Club. Hope you have got your stockings ready (wink).