As a long standing fan of Burlesque, and a dabbler in the performance myself I was extremely excited, yet wary, when preparing to see The Hurly Burly Show, back for a second run on the West End, this time at London’s Duchess Theatre. Let me explain my caution; until a recent upsurge in interest in the now trendy style of seductive cabaret, Burlesque was almost a bit of an underground institution, one would have to visit special Burlesque clubs or bars for an evening of comic debauchery. Now it has been commercialised and adapted for a West End crowd and Miss Polly Rea’s assets can be seen plastered on posters and Billboards across London.
The Duchess theatre is one of the more appropriate West End settings for the performance; one must travel down a staircase to an underground and slightly seedy looking stage, with luxurious red velvet chairs for the voyeurs to sit on. Unfortunately the audience is greeted with bright purple lights, glitter ball effects and Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’ before the show even begins. Sadly this level of class (or lack there of) sets the theme for the show.
There are glorious moments of big band music, sexy sequin costumes and feather headbands that are associated with the traditional art of burlesque. I was green with envy as the Hurly Burly girls appeared on stage in a classic foray of corsets, stockings, pasties and pin curls. Their moves were classy and comically alluring, the way that burlesque was intended. Then, all of a sudden, Rihanna tunes would be blasted, glittery cowgirl outfits would be donned and men would be ridden onstage like rodeo bulls. The show descended from classic burlesque into a strange mix of a hen night and a stag do.
That is not to say that some of the modern interpretations were not effective, the injection of Madonna’s Material World into a Marie Antoniette inspired scene, during which the girls striped from 18th Century court costumes and danced with powder puffs, was pure genious. As was the naughty balloon popping sequence! These scenes used a clever combination of creativity, comedy, and cheeky provocation. Others numbers, such as the ‘S&M’ church act, and the fire yielding, almost nude, bendy ballerina, lacked this imagination and bordered on cheap and trashy. That is not what I was taught burlesque is about.
The end sequence, a geisha inspired act set to Rhianna’s ‘Umbrella’, was a bit of an anti climax, instead I felt the show should have closed with the last number of act one, a traditional and visually impressive tease routine using vast feather fans: Burlesque at it’s most glorious and recognisable.
All in all, The Hurly Burly Show was enjoyable, however its more modern and perhaps crowd pleasing interpretations let the ingenuity of the show down. I would hate to think of Burlesque virgins going away and thinking that what they saw was typical Burlesque. It’s not. If you want to see some bum cheeks and a bit of thigh, definitely go and see this show, but if you are after something a bit more tasteful in it’s teasing, I’d recommend a less commercial, classic show. Also…Hurly Burly ladies…where were the tassels? A two hour Burlesque show without a twirl? Criminal!
Where I sat: N9 in the Stalls. The Duchess theatre is pretty small, so although this is fairly fair back in the Stalls, there is still a clear and intimate view of the stage.
Recommended for: Hen nights, stag dos, people out for some light hearted but equally naught fun.