The Ruby Dolls: Rubies In the Attic @ Assembly Roxy
The Ruby Dolls are T Doll, Jess Doll, Susie Doll and Jen Doll, four minxy Forces sirens. With a cheeky quip and a saucy wink, they are all like Vera Lynn if she had been imbued with the subversive spirit of Resistance performer Agnes Bernelle.
Their set is littered with all things vintage – suitcases, standard lamps and top hats – so far, so cabaret, burlesque even; after all, they do suggestive things with mops during Noel Coward's There Are Bad Times... Their stockings may be seamed, but they never once pander to the male gaze. After all, pumpkin, we wouldn't want to scare the horses.
But don't let the clipped Celia Johnston vowels fool you – their repertoire swoons and swoops in four-part harmony, but there is feminism bubbling under their scarlet grins as their gently man-baiting Suffragette Song attests. Fragile playthings they are not: Jen Doll personifies this spirit – all Katherine Hepburn slacks and sardonic eye-rolling humour – a brilliant frontwoman if they had one. Jess Doll's parody of chanson is also hilariously uber-camp.
Halfway through the set, the ladies operate a puppet – a little straw man – a Jewish immigrant seeking work in London, only to be exploited for a pittance. This storytelling acknowledges the struggle of their grandparents, and is all the more moving for it. Family motifs resurface in Dillie Keane's beautiful paean to mothers and daughters, Look Mummy, No Hands.
There is only one flaw – sometimes, the narrative wanders off, struggling a little to get back on track – yet they are such a joy to watch, so full of charisma and the vocals so eye-wateringly gorgeous, you can forgive a little meander. The Ruby Dolls should be treasured like a keepsake.