The Folly Mixtures put on quite a show last year in the London Wonderground Spiegeltent, performing to an adoring crowd of family, friends and fans. They, and the fanclub, are back this year at the newly renamed Underbelly Festival with their Stars and Strippers spectacular, celebrating all things American.
The opening is a thrilling, endless parade of strutting, stomping Follies who seem to spawn from every corner of the room, set to a pounding girl power anthem that makes your heart trampoline in your chest. A natural blend of ages, shapes and sizes, with girl-next-door accessibility and everygirl appeal.
Veteran sing-and-flinger Peggy De Lune transports us to the United States with a swan song of her celebrated Chicago number, showcasing her killer pipes and unfaltering lung power as she strips and slapsticks with practised polish and crowd play.
She plays the perfect brash American foil to Coward-esque British host Dusty Limits, who resists the carnival of traditional stateside pursuits and motifs with every fibre of his being, until he inevitably surrenders and smashes The Star Spangled Banner in full Statue of Liberty regalia.
The Mixtures present a series of playful group numbers in squads of four or five. Milkshaking diner girls, cheeky cheerleaders, baseball babes and saucy secretaries perform perky choreography that’s more or less in synch, and the removals are flirtatious rather than a prolonged, creative tease. Folly founders Ooh La Lou, Ella Boo and Liberty Sweet are distinctive anchors, and newer members Sally Oh Spitfire and Didi Derriere stand out from the pack.
The highlight is a barnstorming cowgirl number, a funny, feisty two-step complete with hobby horses and cheek-revealing chaps.
This year there are a few solos in the mix. Dave the Bear lets the fur fly as a rough and raunchy flag boy, pumping, humping and hoop jumping for all he’s worth. Storm Hooper is the best I’ve ever seen her in a moody, skilfully choreographed and executed routine with dazzling LED hoops. Ooh La Lou’s Barbie doll act, cleverly tweaked as a Melania Trump send up in keeping with the theme, suits her to a tee, but feels a little unfocused, and the punchline, which relies on a good view of a Barack O-Ken doll, is lost in such a large space.
The finale is inspired; a tribute to the famous Victoria’s Secret catwalk show which devolves into a greasy orgy of junk food and insatiable consumerism, complete with happy meal fascinators and trash bag couture. Pure genius.
The Folly Mixtures, now a veritable army of smiling sirens, have become a London institution. Is this show a boundary pushing, defining example of the art form? No. Is it an utterly uplifting, striptastic dance party that provides a precious hour of escapism in an increasingly uncertain world? Absof*ckinglutely. Go.
The Folly Mixtures in Stars and Strippers: An All American Burlesque Revue returns on 6th September at the Underbelly Festival 2017. Click here for tickets.
Review by Holli-Mae Johnson.
Burlesque Hall of Fame / Miss Exotic World Judge, 2011 Holli Mae Johnson is the founder and editor of 21st Century Burlesque Magazine, a pioneering publication created twelve years ago to unite, document and celebrate the global burlesque community. Holli is actively involved in the burlesque community on a day to day basis and is privately consulted by performers and producers at every level for promotion, critique, recommendations and encouragement. As a documenter and critic, she has seen countless burlesque and variety performances from across the world and provides an intimate perspective and insight into the lives and careers of burlesque’s greatest pioneers, performers and personalities.