What is it like to be a burlesque performer?

It’s glamorous and glitzy and about much, much more than just taking your clothes off.

Burlesque is sassy and witty, it can tell a story, it can make you laugh and it’s a powerful art form which celebrates the female body.

I’ve seen a few burlesque acts, including the fabulous former Alternative Queen of Reading, Dame Le Raine, who is a sensational performer, and every time I’ve loved the theatricality and style of it all.

And if you’ve never seen a burlesque performance, now’s your chance. Blues and Burlesque is coming to the Cellar Bar at South Hill Park in Bracknell on Saturday 24 September after sell out shows in Edinburgh, Perth and Brighton. A mix of music, cabaret and burlesque, it sounds like a fabulous night.

But rather than me trying to explain what you can expect, I’m going to hand over to critically acclaimed burlesque chanteuse (what a glam title!) Lady Beau Peep, who tells us how she got into burlesque and how getting on stage can be both liberating, and nerve-wracking.

Blues and burlesque brings music and cabaret together

What can people expect from Blues and Burlesque?

It is a live, cabaret performance charting the gritty mid-life crisis of former Dexys Midnight Runners pianist Pete Saunders accompanied by his dirty martini swilling mistress, burlesque chanteuse Lady Beau Peep.  The songs are original soulful blues written by Pete and explain the lives of these two characters with hilarious and touching results. The burlesque is provided from tantalising teasing stylish burlesque dancer Felicity Furore who epitomises the same sassy confidence which characterises the evening. If you’re looking for a great combination of music and laughs, reviewer Oliver Lugg is clear; this show of feistiness and fun is a sure-fire way to get it.

How did you get into burlesque?

After drama school I did fringe theatre and musicals, then I formed a cabaret duo with my singing teacher and we did quite well on the London cabaret circuit. I then became a singer on the cruise ships for a couple of years. When I came back to London burlesque was just starting to make a resurgence and I thought rather than just be a singer I would mix elements of burlesque into my act and Lady Beau Peep was born. Burlesque actually means taking a literary, dramatic or musical work and intending to cause laughter which I do with my act as well as well as wear the beautiful costumes. I love interacting with the audience as well as making people laugh and the burlesque art form is perfect for this.

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What does it feel like being on stage as a burlesque performer?

When I first started I was learning my burlesque craft so I was little nervous. Many years ago I worked in a burlesque troupe and and we focused on the essence of burlesque, comedy, music and satire although for the finale we did a striptease. I found this both liberating and nerve-wracking however it got to a point where I no longer enjoyed that part and I found it was not necessary for my act.

What would you say to people who think burlesque is just about taking your kit off?

Striptease is only a tiny part of the art from that is burlesque but of course it gets the most attention in the media as it raises eyebrows particularly in England where it is considered risqué! I am a burlesque singer but I do not take my clothes off. Burlesque has been around in England since the 1830’s and was more musically oriented, the first striptease did not happen until a hundred years later. A great burlesque dancer will turn “taking your kit off” into a theatrical performance. They are often trained dancers with incredible costumes and the show usually incorporates a story, satire, humour and a huge sense of fun which can be empowering to watch. Felicity Furore who features in our show is masterful at this.

Can you describe burlesque in three words?

Sassy, humorous, tantalising

Blues and Burlesque is at South Hill Park in Bracknell on Saturday, 24 September, 8pm. Suitable for 18+ only. Tickets are £12, £11 concessions. To book visit www.southhillpark.org.uk.

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