1st October 2016
(Kitty Kane. Photo by Stefan Hinc)
Upon arrival at The Fleece, the long queue of colourful revellers – adorned in a wide ranging display of burlesque and themed costumes – spilling out from the venue’s entrance is instant affirmation of the sold out status of Burlesque Wonderland’s flamboyant inaugural event Alice Through The Martini Glass. An effigy of Hookah the Smoking Caterpillar greets those at the front of the queue before a corset hand stamp provides the passport to a surrealist world of gothic rabbits, Red and White Queens, Mad Hatters and Cheshire Cats: we have plunged down the rabbit hole and Bristol’s much loved music venue has been transformed into an alluring phantasmagoria.
Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter can be seen on the projection screens at either side of the room and the venue’s support pillars are adorned with signs instructing Wrong Way, Turn Back, This Way and Follow Me as the first of the evening’s twelve stage performances gets under way. Dee Dee Desire doubles up on her Alice theme as, under a dazzling red and green light show, she struts hungrily around the stage to Alice Cooper’s ‘Poison.’
A crimson siren in scarlet costume and headdress, singer Em Brulee assures the audience that she will “not be violated if you sing along” as she offers up an enchantingly moody delivery of Nina Simeone’s ‘Feeling Good.’ However, it is her appearance in the second half which induces one of the the night’s biggest receptions as she powerfully belts out three songs from the musical ‘Cabaret.’
(Lou Leigh Blue. Photo by Stefan Hinc)
Following Lou Leigh Blue’s performance as the Red Queen, in which she performs – along to some sultry saxophone-infused jazz – the most rapid ass shaking this side of a 2 Live Crew music video, an intermission in the stage performances by no means suggests a lull in the action; the large majority of the audience venture outside to witness the impressive fire manipulation skills of male-female duo Ash Arcana; expert displays of fire-eating, fire-breathing and the twirling around of a burning wooden staff across shoulders effortlessly keeps the crowd entertained during the twenty minute interval.
Living up to her reputation as one of Burlesque’s biggest names, headliner Kitty Kane appears in two well executed second half performances; firstly in a hypnotic butterfly performance set to the soundtrack of the iconic strummed guitar of Link Wray’s ‘Rumble,’ followed by her tea cup routine in which she reveals her impressive flexibility and commanding stage presence.
A varied evening of entertainment also sees Dominique V Flook’s belly dance routine (incredibly, as I’m informed, this is not a stage name but her given name at birth), Angelique Dominique’s Unicorn performance in which she reveals more flesh via the successive puncturing of white balloons, Ruby Rawbone’s Mad Hattress and Foo Foo Labelle’s enchanting metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly. Meanwhile, the evening’s performances are ably threaded together by the looming presence of compere Lyra Evangelist who, slightly akin to a young Lilly Savage, offers dry asides between acts.
Whether you are a big fan of burlesque, merely enticed by observance of the weird and wonderful range of costumes on display or simply happy to stand back with a candy floss martini or two, one could say that it would be rather contrariwise for anyone not to have enjoyed Burlesque Wonderland’s highly entertaining debut.
Burlesque Wonderland returns to The Fleece with 007: A Licence To Thrill on Saturday 14th January.