I’ve only been to the Spare Rib once before and there weren’t many bums on seats, so I was pleasantly surprised when the space became packed as soon as doors opened. Fancy dress ranged from Garth and Wayne to an obscure Pokémon (i.e. not Pikachu or the lizard) to a glam granny rocking a bedazzled feathery corset.
The Magnet basement reminds me of bygone days I wasn’t actually alive for. A complimentary marshmallow eyeball kept me happy, and the fixed aircon meant I didn’t have sweaty underboob, though since getting fat I’m still enjoying actually having an underboob.
In an unexpected turn of events, Lola Rogue played compère for the evening and warmed things up with the Time Warp. I’ve seen her glass-walking burlesque act at the Secret Circus and thought she came across as timid, so was totally taken aback to learn she’s a very, erm, confident triple-threat. Self-deprecating and witty, she kept my attention even when going off on vino-induced tangents, describing herself as a “weird crab”. Oh, and she looked absolutely lovely.
The Spare Rib has a monthly “Stage Kitten”, this time Tia Maria whose bum I couldn’t stop gawping at in skin-tight leather pants. According to Lola, it’s ‘a very important job. She gets to pick up everybody’s knickers.’ The point of “Kittening” is that girls have the opportunity to become comfortable onstage, like my pal Mandy who’s working on her own burlesque act and needed some confidence.
First up to get in the nuddy was Tilly Mint, one half of the Spare Rib’s founding with a filthy bondage act. My new pal at the table had a passionate Tilly crush and definitely approved.
Next was the Spare Rib’s co-founder, Minxie Coquette. I’d already seen her Wednesday Addams inspired act, but noticed it hadn’t actually been introduced as that. The soundtrack gave no indication, either, and I’m not quite convinced black pigtails were enough for a lot of people to get it – that is, if they like me weren’t paying attention to it being introduced as ‘creepy, cooky, mysterious and a little spooky’… A nice idea and effort, though, and the Kitten saved the day with the wardrobe malfunction thus proving her worth.
Diva Hollywood has headlined the best burlesque and cabaret acts from New York to Milan but hadn’t performed in two months due to illness, so I was prepared to be lenient. Her Freddy Krueger inspired act was oddly enchanting and despite cracking the whip, there was a softness which meant you couldn’t quite write her off as a scary bedroom maniac.
Next was my Aussie pal Little Peaches, who has the best cheeks either hemisphere. Her adorable act was reminiscent of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, following a China doll’s exploration of her body and the secondary effect it has on the audience.
Sweet and playful, it didn’t scare the burlesque virgins in the house. Meticulously choreographed, it’s obvious Peaches has done it before; she has total confidence in her power over the audience despite little of the act alluding to sex.
In stark contrast, Minxie’s second act of the evening was every bit as devilish as you’d expect a Halloween show to be. Poor Minxie suffered another wardrobe malfunction which actually added to the humour, and she really came into her own brandishing some serpent-like fans to reveal the snazziest tassels I’ve ever seen.
Tilly’s second act had a completely different tone to the first; narrated by a Disney track, Sleeping Beauty pricks her finger and morphs into a man-eating fiend to Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! This act had a better balance of feminine innocence and after-dark flirtation, the confusion and self discovery reminiscent of Little Peaches.
I’m learning my own burlesque preferences, and definitely prefer the cheekier, more subtle kind to overtly sexual; for me, burlesque is about women celebrating their sexuality, and overtly sexual acts tend to kill that and remind me of lurid places like strip clubs. My new pal approved though, obviously, so either act was just fine with him! However, this is just personal preference as far as my tastes go rather than anything on Tilly’s part, and at least she’s a versatile performer.
Lola Rogue insisted that cabaret shows were also about ‘making serious socio-political statements’ and shamelessly shoehorned in a tune about police brutality with her ukulele. The sound wasn’t great so I couldn’t make out all the lyrics, but I liked what I heard. She also offered up some wisdom: ‘Ladies don’t sweat, they glisten,’ which I shall treasure forever.
‘Ladies and gents, put your hands together for me!’ Lola Rogue also performed a “boylesque” act, crossing gender stereotypes as a smutty cockney geezer (‘fuckin’ ladies’ legs?!’) to reveal a 20s inspired getup. Lola’s confidence is incredibly sexy, and so is her bod. She seems to love every second up there and doesn’t take herself seriously. I would go for a pint with Lola.
I will admit, I always get a bit impatient approaching the musical portion of an event and will usually stay out of politeness. I came to see the boobs! Jodie Anderson started with a couple of covers including Shut Up and Drive, a song I personally hate but she managed to make it alright. She has a sweet, gentle voice and provided nice background music while you went for a wee and and a nose about. And then came the tune about concrete. A civil engineer, she proved to be unexpectedly humorous, having explained a previous song about something close to her heart – traffic lights – so a smutty number disguised about sex topped things off nicely.
Finally Diva Hollywood rocked a 1950s housewife look to Mad About the Boy. The latex should have given it away; Diva is jilted by a lover and shoots him. Remorseful, she puts a gun to her own head, the audience pleading for her to reconsider, before aiming towards – and into – her crotch. A hangman appears, Diva’s boobs jiggling as she hangs. This is literally the definition of gallows humour, and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. I’m all for risqué usually, so maybe I’m getting boring in my old age? Even if she wouldn’t get away with it the other 364 days of the year, Halloween is the day I definitely can’t judge. Diva has a wild imagination and a real gift for storytelling, and I have a lot of respect for anyone willing to lay their ideas bare for others to judge – even more so than the getting naked part.
All photos property of Art by Seraphic.