When it was announced at the beginning of the year that Burlesque Noir 2015 would be held at Blackpool’s Tower Ballroom my heart skipped a beat. When the announcement of Tempest Storm as headliner was released I nearly fainted, then made my way happily to the booking page, credit card in hand.
For anyone from the North West of the UK, Blackpool has most likely played a part in your childhood. Once the go-to destination for UK holiday-goers of the 50s and 60s and a location to see the top performers in live theatre and cabaret, it’s now more known for the golden mile illuminations, the Big One and fish and chips. It hasn’t lost any of its reputation of saucy seaside fun which makes it the perfect venue for a burlesque show. My hopes for Burlesque Noir were high and I am happy to report that I wasn’t disappointed.
Stepping out on to the dancefloor and escorted to my table by one of the waiting staff, I found myself seated at the centre of the room with a perfect viewpoint for all aspects of the show. On quick inspection it appeared the whole of the northern burlesque scene had come out for the evening. The Tower Ballroom really is a feast for the eyes; built originally in 1894 it is everything you can imagine, dripping in gilt and host to plentiful glittering crystal chandeliers.
The show was opened by the special surprise guest of the night Leopard Lass, who was resplendent in an ivory and black satin gown which was expertly peeled before she produced several nails and performed the blockhead sideshow brand of burlesque she is well known for. Tidy and Tips followed with their hilarious Britain’s Got Talent meets Morris Dancing act; funny from start to finish and concluding with a finale of bunting from the bum. Alice Allarse brought draglesque to the Ballroom, and Hells Belle was a Victorian gothic masterpiece as an Old Fashioned Girl, fitting into the surroundings perfectly.
Rusty Von Chrome shone as Henry VIII who needs a wife and does everything to source one. From music choices, to choreography, to perfect comedy timing and yes, THAT codpiece – Rusty has created the perfect act which delivers every time; a standout performance of the night and the only one to get a full standing ovation. Lady Wildflower delivered a whole boatload of sex appeal and attitude with bumps, grinds and slut drops in her ‘Fire Imp’ act. Domino Barbeau performed her ‘Dragon Empress’ and ‘Sandman’ acts, bringing her own brand of ‘exotica burlesque’ to the stage.
Coco Malone was our chanteuse for the evening, delivering every song with passion and velvet tones which could make angels cry and left me spellbound. Coco later left the stage and came out into the audience to do a few numbers, and we were all treated to a beautiful duet when she found Kiki DeVille amongst the crowd; a real treat for everyone.
Burlesque Noir’s titular performer Raven Noir entertained the crowd with her signature act, ‘The Raven’, slowly stripping and teasing out of her costume which included a full length raven feathered cloak. Aurora Galore performed a showstopper of a fan dance, which she made look effortless even with such huge fans and high energy moves. She followed this with her old meets new ‘Ringmaster’ act which brought the house down. The Victorian aesthetic of the act worked perfectly in the Ballroom, her costume reflecting the golden surroundings as she hit every beat; perfectly punctuating classic peeling with contemporary choreography.
Vicky Butterfly performed her ‘Swan Bride’ act. A staple in her repertoire, I have enjoyed it many times over the years but the setting of the Tower Ballroom seemed to give Vicky the space to truly stretch her wings. This was followed in the second act by ‘When the rain falls… the Night Flowers bloom’ – if you head to Vicky’s website you can read about the concept, which in short is “Soho as a woman, glistening in neon and wrapped in wet tarmac”. Dazzling light sequences highlighted her body in the darkened room, melting away the cavernous surroundings of the Ballroom to create a beautiful intimacy.
The atmosphere was electric when Tempest Storm took to the stage to rapturous applause, bumping, grinding and shimmying in her timeless, charismatic style. Silence fell across the Ballroom when she got on the mic and told the story of her career, from her secret late night rendezvous with Elvis (who accidentally lost his clothes on the journey!) to her initial worries about having too big boobs. She told us dedication and hard work took her to the top, and that not being tempted into drinking, smoking or taking drugs had, amongst other things, kept her there. Gracious, funny and glamorous Tempest left as she entered: to applause, wolf whistles and proclamations of love.
Burlesque Noir is quickly becoming the hottest ticket to hold in the Northern burlesque scene and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for next year.
Burlesque Noir, Starring Tempest Storm reviewed by Ivy Wilde.
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.