Burlesque has rebounded into the mainstream in the form of The Hurly Burly Show, which has moved from a Soho cabaret club, via the underground Leicester Square Theatre, which has always had an enjoyable whiff of the illicit about it, to one of the most prestigious venues in the West End.
So without any need to don a mac and pull up our collar we can all go and gawp at this troupe of eight women, collectively known as the Hurly Burly Girlies, who strip down to their tassels for a series of costumed routines, from bucking cowgirls to a class of naughty schoolgirls who are given a spot of light discipline by the ruler-wielding chief Hurly Burly Girl Miss Polly Rae.
On the press night, about half the audience was women, which lightened the mood. For speaking as one who has seen a strip show or two in more misspent evenings than this, there is nothing that men take more seriously than a stripper stripping. The opposite is true for women. A hen night is (reportedly) usually full of female laughter. During stag nights men watch the entertainment in silent concentration.
But it is hard to see the male/female audience ratio being maintained, even though this show uses American crooner Spencer Day as a kind of fig leaf of artistic respectability.
For the transition to the Garrick, Rae has turned to director William Baker to do something “creative” with her revue. Baker is best known for his work with Kyle Minogue and was last in the West End with a version of the musical Rent that was more Barbarella than bohemian. But if this is the creative version of Rae’s show, the mind boggles at how little creativity it must have offered before.
It is hard to work out if we were meant to get some kind of ironic kick out of the sheer naffness of the acts here, the most “creative” of which saw one of the Hurly Burly Girlies dressed in balloons, each of which she pops with a squeal of mock surprise, and then walks off stage. Erm, that’s it.
There probably is a good show to be created out of burlesque just as there was out of cabaret. But surely you have to do something more than revive the old fashioned basic and sometimes base acts. At least you do if it is to move from Soho into the West End theatre.