Upon entering “Gingers”, the cozy, classy upstairs corner of the Oxford Hotel, decorated with display cases of vintage radio sets and topped with glowing art deco lighting fixtures, you descend with your cocktails to find a plush dining booth in the alcoves huddled around the small stage. The mood is well and truly set for a sexy and sophisticated night out. It is a mood almost immediately shattered, and is all the better for it, by the appearance of the evening’s master of ceremonies, the impressively mustachioed Captain Cock, who proceeds to prate and preen as he moves from table to table, teasing and heckling the crowd before they even have any chance to find their sea legs. It sets the tone perfectly for what promises to be a night of entertainment that is both saucy and silly, with a heavy emphasis on the latter.
As is generally the case with neo-burlesque, this variety show of different performers’ acts runs the gamut from erotic to parodic, but they tend to largely fall into the camp of, well… camp. The night starts off with Mae de la Rue as a very funny female Elvis impersonator in full-on dissipated Las Vegas mode. Her routine is not so much a striptease as it is a transformation, ditching the white rhinestone-festooned jumpsuit and jelly-roll wig to reveal, with some additions, a glittery Vegas Showgirl.
Following up is Venus Vamp in the role of the Pirate Queen, nicely framed by some banter with MC Captain Cock as her mortal enemy. The aptly pseudonymed Vamp is excellent in the one relatively unironic number of the night, a genuinely sexy slow shimmy with tongue scarcely in cheek at all, culminating in some impressive work with trailing dark-flamed silk fans that proved even more mesmerising than her gyrations.
Divided into three two-act sets, the first interval brought some enforced audience participation for those too slow to get to the bar before being shanghaied onstage by Captain Cock. A dance-off “orgy” between two parties of ladies attending the evening was actually more fun than cringe-inducing, but fortunately it was not long to wait before the burlesque artistes took the stage once more.
Next up we had quite a comedic showstopper in Percy Peacock as the all-Aussie wonder, a Pink Galah. It is hard to describe exactly what makes this pink-feathered funnygirl in a plumed c-string quite so uproariously chuklesome, but her desperate-to-please manic enthusiasm is quite infectious. Unfortunately, her wolfing down the slices of white sandwich bread that a guest tosses at her like a patron “making it rain” in a strip club seems to have a deleterious effect on her avian digestion, eliciting the most glittery turds you’re ever likely to see daintily deposited on a Sydney stage.
Rounding out the middle portion is the formidable Lady Devine, real-life producer of the show and the only performer whose act involves live singing. Belting out a medley of “Confide in me”, “Don’t Stop Me Now” and “Knock on Wood”, she portrays a water-spirit, cursed by a witch to kill her lovers. This involves not only throttling an audience member, but also fellating and subsequently murdering a well-endowed blow-up doll on stage, to the great amusement of all concerned.
Captain Cock is back for the second interval, roping in a middle-aged couple from the audience to participate in a “burlesque obstacle course” who actually managed to upstage the bawdy and voluble MC. Much of the audience agreed via their hollers and whoops that the psychologist’s impromptu display of her bump and grind prowess should earn her a slot on the next show, even if her husband dragged onstage with her should perhaps stick to management, good sport though he was.
The final pair of professional performers kicked off with the artiste simply known as Rainbow appearing in the guise of the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, specifically the wild-eyed and heavily-painted Johnny Depp version from the Tim Burton adaptations. With her babushka doll-like stack of hats (appropriate, given the show’s production company), this gleefully greasepainted weirdo had easily the best sight-gag of the evening, with the inevitable bearing of her sparkly pasties revealing that, dangling from each, was not the conventional tassel but rather… tea-bags. Because what sort of Mad Hatter would she be if not obsessed with tea parties? So, naturally a couple in the front row are treated to a dainty-poured cuppa each, with the requisite dunking via uproarious jiggles.
The night’s panoply of pleasures was rounded off with a mystery act, as returning Master of Ceremonies Captain Cock is once again confronted by nemesis the Pirate Queen, only to make a shocking discovery. As it turns out, after all the leering and lewdness the good captain was a woman all along! The resulting striptease is equally hilarious and enticing, inevitably involving some more enforced audience participation, pulling in one of the happily-tormented patrons from the pre-show banter. Fully metamorphed from the cowardly captain into her final form as Legs 11:11, the night ends with a bang and a curtain call for all the talented ladies, assembled onstage for a hearty and much deserved ovation.
Russian Doll Productions
Boudoir Burlesque Bar
Venue: Ginger's (Oxford Hotel) | Oxford Street, Darlinghurst NSW
Date: 29 July 2017