An evening spent in the warm, luxurious belly of Cafe de Paris is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a night in London. I have praised the VIP dining experience in the past, but last Saturday I was equally comfortable seated on the balcony level, attended by extremely pleasant staff and enjoying a wonderful view of the stage.
Crowd-pleasing cabaret showcase Showtime has filled the Saturday night slot at Cafe de Paris for over a year now, and although I have previously reviewed it I was invited back on this particular evening to witness the world premiere of Sukki Singapora’s ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend’ act before she embarks on a world tour. Sukki has earned recognition as “Singapore’s first professional burlesque performer”, working as an advocate for Asian women and recently becoming “the first-ever Singaporean woman to legally perform a striptease burlesque act in Singapore”. Her new act involves a magnificent 6ft, illuminated diamond ring, complete with pyrotechnic finale.
Showtime emcee Jeff Leach is engaging and hilarious throughout. His audience interaction is often intentionally embarrassing but well judged, and he maintains an excited pace and sense of occasion, albeit in his signature cockney-via-Bucharest style.
The show is an easy, comfortable watch, but on occasion not quite challenging enough. Hooper Helen Orford has skill, and her last minute quick change is excellent, but her overall delivery lacks punch and variety. Burlesque beauty Missy Fatale continues to deliver rather more style than substance, and The Folly Mixtures leave their more developed and popular comedic numbers at home and instead deliver two rather sedate showgirl routines. Aerial artiste Graeme Clint seems to spend most of his act climbing and repeating similar manoeuvres.
During the interval, Sukki Singapora’s 6ft diamond ring is pushed into place, and the diamond bath on top filled up. It is a beautiful prop, no question, and bound to appeal to corporate clients. My concern was that the act itself wouldn’t match the sparkle and scale of the prop, and at times my concern was a valid one. What we saw was more of a first draft than a polished, substantial routine ready for a world tour.
A badass 6ft diamond ring – or any oversized luxury prop for that matter – demands sufficient charisma and/or star power from a performer, and a costume of equal splendour. Dita is jaw-droppingly opulent stepping out of her opium den; Vicky Butterfly is a mesmerising dream on her rocking moon; Roxi D’lite is raunch personified on her smoking cigar; and Michelle L’amour fucks your heart prowling on top of her panther cage. Hell, Dirty Martini could dwarf Niagara Falls if she stopped to take a bath. Sukki’s offstage achievements and profile deserve respect – that’s not in dispute here – but beyond her impossibly exquisite face and otherworldly glossy blue curls, she is in danger of blending into a long line of similar high glamour but often average delivery burlesque performers.
From the beginning it is easy for any seasoned burlesque spectator to anticipate her choreography (bring leg up behind for stocking peel, classic Dita/D’Lish pose on top of bath, etc.) and some of her movements seem hesitant and unsteady, particularly during the stocking removal and stepping back into her shoes. There are flashes of personality, but only flashes. Bathing in a glass or bath is typically a frivolous, celebratory climax, but her time in the top of her prop is brief (possibly due to a rather prolonged corset removal segment) and lacks fluidity. Her costume is pretty, certainly, but short of splendid, the nude corsetry appearing a little bland, even with the Swarovski embellishment.
Sukki’s choice of music and the intended message seems confused. She comes out to well worn but popular standard Minnie the Moocher, which tells the story of an impoverished, licentious, opium-addled woman driven to insanity and death, and then transitions suddenly into Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend – again, a popular if not especially original choice, but with a completely contrasting theme. Her performance doesn’t play to the initial mood or theme, or change significantly when the second is introduced; her persona and level of energy generally remain the same throughout.
Could this act be a show stopper? With more energy and creativity from Sukki it could easily improve (and I say this knowing this act is two years in the making). I hoped for more; I always take my seat hoping for more and willing a performer to deliver something amazing. I just wasn’t sufficiently wowed on this occasion.
Unveiling a luxurious, large scale prop is something many up and coming performers aspire to do, but it can’t be the act; it can’t do all the work for you. Standing in front of something so grand and glamorous can showcase you or brutally expose you; it is up to you to determine which, or whether to attempt it at all.
The standout act of the night is melodious, magnificent drag queen Velma Celli; a vocal powerhouse delivering creative pop mashups with unshakeable confidence, charisma and vivacity. As the night draws to a close, the entire audience are belting out classic anthems along with her in a rousing, feel good finale.
Dynamic duo Feeding the Fish send us home with a captivating display of skill and a rainbow of stunning Pixel-Poi brilliance, juggling together with breathtaking accuracy and making stars and butterflies dance through the air. It is a well positioned, magical conclusion to the evening’s entertainment before we are invited to sip champagne and recline on plush beds in the intimate lounge beyond…
Reviewed 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.