Welcome to the world of Cabaret Roulette, an innovative, no-holds-barred variety show in London where the audience calls the shots!
Cabaret Roulette launched in November 2012 with a simple goal: to shake up the cabaret scene by throwing out old ideas, empowering audiences and challenging artists to push beyond their comfort zones – all the ingredients for live performance magic! Each show has a central theme, chosen in advance by the audience via the Facebook fan page followed by a live vote. Eight carefully curated artists, representing as widely-differing disciplines and styles as possible, then have two months to create a brand new act putting their individual take on that single theme.
Cabaret Roulette producer extraordinaire Vivacity Bliss counts down her top ten burlesque highlights from the Cabaret Roulette archives for 21st Century Burlesque Magazine…
10. Jeu Jeu la Foille – ‘Bone Appetits, Bitch!’ (Cabaret Roulette: Guilty Pleasures, April 2014)
The joy of Jeu Jeu la Foille’s ‘Bone Appetits’ act is pure, raw schadenfreude: how smugly satisfying it is to watch a smug Whole-Foods-shopping, tofu-advocating strident vegan give in to the baser virtues of a good pork pie. (Extra bonus points for her Pepperami corset, which is an absolute work of art.)
9. Lena Mae – ‘Seventh Heaven’ (Cabaret Roulette: Sci Fi/Doctor Who, June 2013)
Lena Mae is a Doctor Who fanatic and a fantastic performer, which could explain how she managed to turn the seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, into a sex bomb. A nerdy twist on a classic showgirl act.
8. Trixi Tassels – ‘How to Attract a Man’ (Cabaret Roulette: Science, February 2014)
Women are frequently drawn to burlesque because of its rejection of limited definitions of beauty. Trixi Tassel’s lecture on the female form is this rejection made overt: as the male voiceover analyses and dismantles her, reducing her to imperfect parts, Trixi goes into full tassel-twirling rebellion. Mix a great concept with Trixi’s mind-boggling technical skills in twirling and you have a delicious act.
7. Missy Maybe (Cabaret Roulette: Myths and Legends, September 2013)
Missy’s act is pure vindictive joy, taking on and ripping the apart all of the hateful techniques and gizmos sold to desperate women in our never-ending quest to lose weight. Her character’s progressive emancipation from the ordeal she’s putting herself through is both hilarious and hugely cathartic.
6. Peggy de Lune (Cabaret Roulette: Guilty Pleasures, April 2014)
Lots of performers do acts that are, for lack of a better word, ‘wrong’, but what makes Peggy’s child beauty pageant act so wonderful is how hard she throws herself into the wrongness. Peggy is a brilliant dancer, and her music choice – South African band Die Antwoord – and choreography take this act so far over the line of politically correct that the crowd is roaring by the end.
5. Ava Iscariot – ‘The Everlasting Gaze’ (Cabaret Roulette: Sci Fi/Doctor Who, June 2013)
‘The Everlasting Gaze’ was a passion project for gothic burlesquer and Doctor Who fanatic Ava Iscariot, who wanted to create an act based on her favourite character from the show that would trigger a genuine fear reaction in her audience. It requires a savvy technician and a good strobe light, but when pulled off is quite the magnificent feat. Blinking is definitely not an option.
4. Felicity Furore – ‘Yeah, Baby, Yeah!’ (Cabaret Roulette: Celebrity, March 2014)
In a scene filled to the brim with gorgeous showgirls, Felicity Furore stands out for me and this act is a great example of why. In this joyous, gorgeous, Austin Powers-inspired fan dance, Felicity combined the glamour of classic showgirl with her trademark gentle subversion of the artform, creating an act that is at once classic and entirely unexpected. Great fun to watch, and especially wonderful work given that she is the newest performer to have ever taken on the Roulette challenge.
3. Ginger Cupcake – ‘Filthy Pig!’ (Cabaret Roulette: Filth!, July 2013)
Ginger Cupcake has done the show twice now (and is booked for a third!) and it wasn’t easy choosing which of her two acts most deserved to be on this list. In the end I’ve opted for ‘Filthy Pig!’ – Ginger’s classic champagne glass act. Classic, that is, save for the fact that the champagne glass is a trough filled with muddy water and vegetables and Ginger herself is a six-nipple-tasseled pig. In every other way and in every move she makes, however, it is a point-perfect champagne glass act, and this plot twist is so clever that the resulting act is impossibly charming.
2. Scarlett Belle – ‘Marilyn Monroe: Fallen Hollywood Starlet’ (Cabaret Roulette: Asylum, April 2013)
Our regulars have never stopped talking about this act and the moment in which everything they knew about how to respond to burlesque was thrown out the window. The act starts off with the glamorous Scarlett cooing into the microphone as a Gentlemen Prefer Blondes-era Marilyn Monroe, then rapidly deteriorates as the legend descends into addiction and self-destruction. As the gloves come off, then the dress and the underwear, there is no whooping and cheering from the spellbound audience; it is powerful, visceral and unforgettable.
1. Shirley Windmill – ‘The Funny Bones’ (Cabaret Roulette: Ghost Stories, October 2013)
The goal of Cabaret Roulette is to celebrate the unique talents of the individual artist, and none have captured this more than Shirley Windmill’s ‘Funny Bones’ act. This is burlesque in its truest sense: the theme song of a Welsh children’s comedy series from the early 1990s, told in the form of badass urban rap. Nothing more, nothing less: performance, character, parody. It is ludicrous. It is hysterical. It is GENIUS. I could watch it for days.