Tournament of Tasties…

March 10, 2008

What a lot of lovely ladies! My friend and I were both Bethnal Green virgins, having always intended to, but never actually got around to seeing what all the fuss was about. Thursday night was our chance to do just that. I arrived disastrously late to meet my friend (apologies again!) wearing a black and white polka-dot dress and a fab white fluffy shrug (not pictured) that I picked up in Germany last year. Why is it that no matter how much I rush to get ready I still wind up late? Oh dear…

polkadot.jpg

Me wearing said dress at an LBF fundraiser last year.

So, back to the matter at hand. Arriving late I meet my friend (whose Victory rolls you could tell looked great, but had suffered from standing around waiting in the wind for half an hour…) and we walked from the tube station cautiously down the high street, looking left and right until we found Pollard Row, which we ambled up even more cautiously just in case we’d taken an ill-fated wrong turn. If I could make one suggestion to the management it might be that outside the building they have large neon signs with the obligatory arrows and ‘Girls! Girls! Girls!’ flashing on them, just to make the place a little easier to distinguish.

I’m not entirely sure of the history of the Whoopee! Club at Bethnal Green, or how it came to be that a little burlesque haven was tucked away in a working mens club, but I can only imagine (as in… this is a complete stab in the dark) that it’s in some way down to Jo King, as Goodtime Mama JoJo was certainly the heart and soul of the show. Although she reminded me somewhat of my Mum which was a little disconcerting, (my Mama was certainly one for a good time…) it was lovely to see her looking out for the girls when the judges gave them a hard time.

The acts were surprising good (having not known what to expect); we came to take a look at the competition and certainly saw that in the girls that performed. First up was Goldie May, whose clockwork doll routine was funny, sweet and sexy. You’ve got to hand it to a girl that can look good, dance, sing and make people laugh. Poor thing had lost the key from her key-hole… but luckily she could be “manually operated”! It was really very good. Other acts that stood out were the ‘Flapping Tappers’ who did a brilliant comedic dance routine, a geisha act and a surreal toreador who fought a plastic sheep then seduced a bull by taking her clothes off.

The venue was a little smaller than I think we were expecting but there was certainly room enough to swing a cat (not to mention nipple tassels…) and we even managed to find ourselves a seat for the second half. I think one thing that would put me off performing there would be the regular staff of the club; standing at the bar sipping our drinks a big long haired man came and stood in front of us to get a better look, and for some reason, his ogling, rather than appreciation, seemed to cheapen what the girls were doing. I didn’t like that much. Burlesque tends to draw a particular crowd, unlike ordinary mainstream stripping, and when there are people in the audience that wouldn’t care if the girl was wearing a neon g-string and nothing else, then it isn’t as much fun anymore. I completely understand the nature of the game, Burly-Q wouldn’t be where it is without men paying to see some naked flesh; but nowadays it’s the women in Burlesque that define what they do as an art-form – be that as performers or audience members. Without respect of the art you may as well head down to some sleazy club, where the girls will take their clothes off quicker and you’re likely to see a whole lot more. I know I’m acting like a purist, and I really have no right to, but this thing that I love, I hate to see tainted… and now I’m off my moral high-horse I’ll finish what I started.

Tournament of Tease: If you want to see good quality performances from rising stars of the Burly-Q then I thoroughly recommend a visit – especially if you’re on a budget (entry £8, drinks approx. £3 each), Burlesque Bargain ladies and gents, what more could you ask for?

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