Between the Sheets: An Intimate Cabaret brings burlesque bang up to date with flair, authenticity and intelligence in a scene often plagued with complacency and a lack of creativity and willingness to push further and offer something new. It grabs you by the heart, mind and groin and holds on tight for 90 minutes of bawdy brilliance. Every cast member, without exception, has brought their A-game to this fantastic show, and you have two more opportunities to see it – so read on and snatch yourself a ticket, pronto!
1. It has a thrillingly slick and sexy opening number.
“Where else will you see six of the sexiest performers in cabaret writhing beneath giant bed sheets?!” exclaims show director Laura Corcoran, aka Frisky of pop-mash superduo Frisky and Mannish. “The chemistry between them all is electric; you could cut the atmosphere with a knife!”
“We decided to up the ante and really focus on enhancing the areas that weren’t as strong last year, and one of them was the opening number,” explains ring mistress Polly Rae. “This year we really wanted to open the show with a bang and create a big visual to set the standard for the rest of the show. We chose Madonna’s Erotica for obvious reasons, but I didn’t want to go with the original arrangement of the song; it had to be stronger and have more impact. With the help of incredible music producer Sarah De Courcy we created a really bassy, heartbeat, sexy sound that really sets the scene. We wanted the opening scene to reflect a sort of orgy, with all characters writhing around and intertwining, and although a tad ‘oh, I see what you did there!’ I love the inclusion of the giant bed sheets to pull it all together.”
“We were all keen to take the show in a more modern and ‘now’ direction. Moving away from the more traditional old school Burlesque show and taking heavy influences from pop and fashion culture,” adds co-producer and art director Klare ‘Yaya’ Wilkinson.
2. It talks about ‘Real Love’ (oh love oh love… #earworm)
Of Between the Sheets‘ mortifyingly hilarious opening song, Polly says: “I just love comedy, more so sex and comedy as a combo. I also think it’s great to say it like it is. The song, actually named ‘Queef’ is such a great ice-breaker and really helps the audience to relate and therefore relax and get into the vibe of the show. Frisky and I wrote it last year over a few Aperol Spritz, gave the lyrics to musical god Michael Roulston who added the melody and arrangement, and then together we worked on it to create one of my all time favourite things to perform!
“Well, look, you need to get any awkwardness out of the way – sex isn’t always like in the movies, we know this, so let’s celebrate it!” says Frisky. “Sometimes the best times are when things don’t go exactly to plan, but hey, that’s real love.”
3. The showbitch couture is sick-making.
Of the gag-worthy array of gorgeous costumes, Polly says, “Costume is everything and every detail has been considered right down to the last rhinestone, especially for this show. Yaya, our visual director and stylist, has put a lot into the group costumes this year, adding flourishes to existing costumes and coming up with great ideas for new ones. I wear some of my signature costumes but I made a few tweaks to make them more relevant to the show, including a hot new pair of thigh high red Swarovski boots and a stunning Baby Pink latex dress – YES!”
“Costuming wise I had a lot of fun this year re-designing the group numbers and creating the colourful explosion that is Frisky Mivaj, says Yaya. “I was heavily influenced by nineties couture, such as Thierry Mugler and Gaultier, and also ghetto fashion which I’ve always loved.”
Kitty Bang Bang and Madame de Voila created their own stunning costumes, as Polly explains. “Madame’s dress and gigantic hat are EPIC; it looks like something you may see on a haute couture catwalk. Kitty is the same; her finale costume is to die for. I love her attention to detail and extravagance. We asked her to wear latex for her ‘Baby’s On Fire’ whip-cracking act; she kindly obliged but hates us now because that stuff is so hard to deal with in a quick change. Still, it looks insane and worth the madness!”
Of her delicious finale ensemble, Kitty says, “My ‘Absinthe Glass’ finale costume originated as a set of underwear from the company ‘Lascivious’, who I often look to for stage sets because they produce some really interesting shapes and original designs. Plus, they’re not a huge brand so it’s unlikely that I’ll see another performer in the same lingerie. Then, I turned to my absolute go to girl for all things rhinestoned, Adora Belle. Adora Belle and I have been working together for as long as I’ve been able to afford crystals! She is uber talented, full of original design ideas and I can give her the most detailed descriptions for pieces or just suggest a colour scheme and I know that she’ll send me back the most amazing piece of wearable art. The skirt was actually inspired by a Victoria’s Secret piece and it was made for me by the performer and fabulous seamstress, Beau Rocks. I can’t remember how many meters of net Beau told me that she sewed, but she did say that she hated me afterwards. Annoyingly, a member of the audience stole my crystalled harness on the press night of Between The Sheets and so I’ve commissioned a brand new corset from my favourite corset maker, AnniHiro. Hopefully I’ll be wearing it for the final two shows. If anybody sees an emerald crystal suspender harness from Lascivious for sale anywhere, tell me! I’ll head over with my fire whip!”
4. The musical arrangements are fresh and hot.
“With input from the team that comes together to be Frisky & Mannish (pop mash-up experts), plus the doyen of the art of cabaret piano, Michael Roulston, AND hot producers from the music industry, you know you’re getting pretty much the best out there with the music,” says Frisky. “It’s all coming from a pop place, but with a cabaret artistry and sensibility. Think Kylie’s Showgirl tour, Britney’s Circus tour, Madonna from the nineties. They all knew burlesque and cabaret was the place to borrow from, and now we’re borrowing right back!
“I have used pop music in my shows since I started 10 years ago,” explains Polly. “I always love to put a twist on the arrangements of the songs, though, and it is an honour to work with such talented collaborators (my favourite track, Oops, who I can thank Laura and Michael Roulston for, is absolute genius!). Being contemporary is a key thing for me; I want to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, so a bit of Rihanna or Missy Elliot for example helps us to do that.”
5. The men bring it as hard as the women…
“Here at Between the Sheets, we believe firmly in equality between the genders,” says Frisky. “So yes, there’s a lot of flesh on show, and A LOT of it is hot, ripped, male flesh! But as with the ladies, it’s not just about that; Phil InGud will have you working up a sweat (and giggling like a schoolgirl) at the gym, and Stephen Williams/Hugo Desmarais (joining us soon!) will show you things you’ve never seen in mid-air! If you’re anything like us, you’ll be sliding off your seat by the end!”
Of his charged and cheeky workout routine, Phil says, “I wanted it to be a satire of ‘Gym Bunnies/Posers’ – we all know them – that desperately need to look hot even when covered in sweat and trying to seem as though everything is easy work! It is a nod to male strippers, too, with the classic moves that many a hen may have seen! Also, being me, I can’t do things too seriously and hopefully I bring my own goofy self to it!”
6. You’ll meet the in-flight crew of your naughtiest dreams.
You’ll be gagging to book the next available Flight 69 to Lesbos when you meet the infamous Sleazyjet crew…
“The Sleazyjet number was something that was developed for the very first Between The Sheets when the show was just myself, Polly and Laurie Hagen performing together,” explains Kitty. “It’s a number that has grown with the show and we’ve added more of our own characters into the mix as time has passed. When the boys joined the number I think that added to the fun of it all. There is a certain outfit that one of the male cabin crew members wears that always gets a huge cheer. And Phil InGud and I have always enjoyed sharing a stage and bouncing (sometimes literally) off one another. I love ‘Sleazyjet’ because everybody gets their chance to shine in their own way up there. And some of the jokes at the top are filthy, but Polly says them so sweetly that we get away with it!”
“‘Sleazyjet’ is an oldy but a goody and nine times out of ten an audience favourite,” adds Polly. “It gives everyone a chance to show off their characters and general ability to be absolutely ridiculous. It has become more and more outrageous over the years, including the boys was a GREAT call and everyone has really grown into their parts. I find it hard avoid laughing whenever we do it. As Kitty said we somehow get away with the filth – even when Phil Ingud fellates a banana!”
7. A gorgeous, funny man will wax lyrical about ‘intimate lifestyle products’.
Of Callum MacDonald’s star turn in the role of sponsor plugger (ahem), Polly says, “When we started I thought it would be a nice touch to have sponsorship from an ‘intimate’ company to help support and promote the show. I was delighted when LELO – the world’s leading adult lifestyle brand – came on board. It has become an awesome relationship. In the beginning I only really wanted some sachets of lube to give away at the end of the show as a cheeky little send off, but we have ended up collaborating so much more. We now feature the brand in the actual show. Last year we did a QVC style shopping channel skit which sadly didn’t quite work. This year we scaled it back and gave the ‘shameless product placement’ reins to the hilarious genius that is Callum McDonald (and soon to be equally wonderful Tom Cunningham) who we cast as Miss Polly Rae’s ‘LELO Luxury Lifestyle Product Representative’. He chats about the toys, gives the toys away to surprised and unassuming audience members and definitely puts some smiles on people’s faces.”
8. It isn’t all lewd laughs and straight sex…
Of his authentic, beautiful love duet performed with Callum McDonald, Phil InGud says, “The initial idea was a Tango, but when Kitty and Laura suggested Hope There Is Someone by Antony and the Johnsons I immediately identified with the lyrics as I was going through the end of a very hard relationship. The duet was my take on the relationship as it broke down; it was so hard as at the first performance my ex was in the audience and was seeing how I viewed our relationship, and the second performance we had broken up, so needless to say it was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, both times! It is a piece I am very proud of and love the reaction from the crowd, as especially in Between The Sheets as it comes out of nowhere. You can hear a pin drop, which is the best reaction you can hope for.”
9. It has a KICKASS finale, courtesy of badass British burlesque royalty…
“I had the idea of a flaming Absinthe glass years ago,” Kitty Bang Bang explains. “I was performing at Erotica 2010 as one of the support acts to Dita Von Teese on the main stage, and the booker was teasing me about my prop, which was an actual wheelie bin. I mean, in comparison to Dita’s opulent Opium Den stage set it might not have been the most glamorous of props… There was a fire performer on the bill too called ZoraViperaz who was the first fire performer that I’d seen to use larger scale props and not just handheld torches or fans. She had a large metal love heart that she would breathe fire through and leave it burning on the stage. I thought that the effect it created was so impressive. I’ve always been all about adding more flames! So when I looked at all the shows happening around me, and decided that I too wanted a big glamorous prop, I wanted to incorporate my fire performance into it as well, and the idea of a giant flaming absinthe glass was born.”
“I couldn’t believe that nobody else had made one,” Kitty continues, “so I went home and Googled for hours. And then I checked again, and again. It seemed like I was the only person who wanted to sit in a ring of fire, five feet from the floor (!!) so I asked for quotes from a number of prop makers and this is where the project stalled. Nobody really seemed to know exactly how to go about making the prop and they all quoted enough money to pay my rent for the whole year to make it. Eventually I found a prop maker who thought they could fulfil the vision I gave to them and for only as much money as would pay my rent for half the year. Very reasonable! Haha. But the project stalled and unfortunately wasn’t finished in time for the 2014 run. In the end, I found a welder to make vital changes to make the act safe, only weeks before the first show.
“The first time I put the glass together and got in it was the day before our first preview. BUT it’s everything that I wanted it to be. I wanted to take a super traditional burlesque image and subvert it. I wanted to put my own trashy, joyful stamp onto something elegant. I basically wanted to live out my eighties feature stripper fantasy and I’m too excited every single time I get to do this act.”
“Obviously I already want to change things,” Kitty adds. “I want the flames to be even bigger, I’m adding even more mirrorball goodness to the glass, and the costume is getting some extra corset and rhinestone action. I can’t wait for everybody to come to the show and see it. It’s basically ludicrous!”
“I’m envious as hell,” says Polly. “We all want that signature prop that blows everyone away. Kitty has so very cleverly taken a synonymous concept and made it 100% her own. I’m SO happy that she chose Between The Sheets to launch it to the world. She has created the show stopper finale that the show needed and I am so very proud of her!”
You have two – I repeat – TWO opportunities left to see this fantastic burlesque show at London Wonderground 2015, awarded 4.5 stars in a review by 21st Century Burlesque Magazine.
Quoted in major international newspapers and held in high esteem and affection by the international burlesque community, 21st Century Burlesque Magazine has documented the contemporary burlesque scene since 2007. Founded and edited by Holli-Mae Johnson.