Glasgow Cabaret Festival

Gareth K Vile continues to have fun at the Cabaret

Article by Gareth K Vile | 16 Jul 2009
  • Glasgow Cabaret

One of the most exciting aspects of the burlesque revival is the way in which different events – despite sharing some of the same performers – have found their own niches. High Tease caters for the upmarket, dressed up punter, attracting both a mature audience and punky youngsters; Rockaburley has that tattooed, rock’n’roll edge, while tonight’s show at Mama San’s welcomes in a crowd of sophisticated diners.

At first, the shape of the bar challenges the show. Compere and vocalist Rufus T wanders the tables, bravely asking for requests (“Rammstein,” shouts somebody, forging the obvious link between ironic German metal and 1930s Berlin), and inviting critics and diners down the front to see the acts.

To the cabaret’s credit, this long, awkward room is used to advantage. Fan dancers appear from the back, wandering card sharp Magic Andy offers his close up tricks, and Rufus pulls people into the front row, where one lucky man is dragged on stage and almost eaten by Frisky and Mannish.

Rufus and Lucille, the partnership behind Rhymes with Purple who have organised the Festival, have been refining their take on cabaret at The Art Club. By moving across the road, they have brought cabaret to a new crowd, while taking it back to its supper club roots. Glasgow favourites Vendetta Vain and Cat Aclysmic rub tassels with guests from London and the range of styles showcases the best of bump, grind and artistry.

Cat Aclysmic’s two routines have her cheeky hallmarks of humour and sensuality: as a geisha, she recalls the Orientalism of the nineteenth century; her second routine is a classic rock’n’roll shimmy with added itching powder. Vendetta Vain follows up the oriental theme with an elegant, slow dance in bound feet, before returning with another playful burlesque classic, the balloon pop.

Beatrix Von Bourbon is the third dancer, direct from London and an expert in the slow, melancholic fan dance. She can do humorous, but her fan dances capture a languid sadness that belies the expected titillation. Where Vendetta’s balloon pop is cowboy fun and sashays flirtatiously, Beatrix’s characterisation is introverted and wistful.

Frisky and Mannish are an intense musical duo, churning up pop detritus to create an urgent, satirical hilarity. From psychotic readings of love songs that bring out the mania behind those innocent declarations of desire, to threading together the questions from chart hits into a pumping show-stopper, Frisky and Mannish update the whimsical duet into a faultless parody of musical absurdity. With the vogue for the 1980s slowly decaying, they boot apart Hall and Oates, have fun with Katy Perry’s hetero-normativity and interpret the work of George Michael as an oratorio. Fast, funny, furious, Frisky and Mannish take their twin personae to peaks of surrealism, ending the night on a stunning high.