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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Immodesty Blaize & Walter's Burlesque
Arts Theatre Spring 2005

There is a myth that burlesque wasn't always sleazy, but began as family entertainment. It is false, of course - burlesque, whether at Minsky's in New York, the Windmill in London, or any of the hundreds of even less respectable venues, was always just a place for sad little men to watch sad little women take their clothes off.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with having a myth, or with putting on a show to celebrate it. But it would have to be a lot better than this one-step-above-inept curiosity.

(It can be done, by the way. For decades Las Vegas's lounges and smaller showrooms have featured Salutes to Burlesque that mix pretty girls with mildly naughty comedians, and they're fun.)

Two performers who cut their teeth in the gay clubs of London's East End have put together this slightly pathetic vanity production and found someone to put up the money to bring it to the West End. Well, good for them, say I, but there is little reason for you to go see it.

Immodesty Blaize, who suggests a slightly overweight version of Ava Gardner in her prime, does manage to work up a degree of glamour as she does a half-dozen exotic walkabouts of the fan dance sort, stripping her way down to considerably more clothing than the average woman wears at the beach.

Even the fact that she is a bit broader of waist and thigh than modern standards of beauty allow gives her a pleasant retro feel, and as the supporting novelty (rather than the star) in a better show, she might be fun.

Walter also does a number of strips, though considerably less adeptly than your average dial-a-stripper, all starting with him in men's clothing and ending in women's underwear. That's a fairly slim joke to begin with, and it doesn't bear the several repeatings it gets, and only one number, starting with him as a camp Marquis de Sade, generates any chuckles.

As supporting acts, there are some girl dancers, and 'Magic Wanda' (Rebecca Grant) dances her little heart out, all teeth and smiles, while doing some rudimentary magic tricks in a turn that is just silly enough to be fun.

Danny Schlesinger as 'Spike Loons' turns the menial tasks of moving props and clearing up discarded costumes into little gems of mime comedy, and generates more audience rapport and good humour in his short bits than the rest of the show put together.

It takes more than tackiness to rise to the level of camp. This sad little show just doesn't make it.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Burlesque - Arts 2005