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Immodesty Blaize And Walter’s Burlesque!

Published April 17, 2008

Jaunty hats, delicately-arranged fishnets, figure-hugging frocks and décolletage which bring to mind my trip to the Grand Canyon. No, this isn't a description of my latest Freudian reverie, but a brief example of the delights one could see at the opening of Immodesty Blaize And Walter's Burlesque! at the Arts Theatre last night. When I point out that I was only describing the attire of the first night audience, it should become clear that Burlesque! isn't a conventional West End show, writes Tom Bowtell…

Indeed, it is a fairly extraordinary offering which is almost impossible to describe satisfactorily, (a fact that is not going to stop me trying). The show is an amalgam of traditional burlesque, tongue-in-cheek camp, 1920s-dance routines, magic and high farce. The stars of the show, the voluptuously feline Immodesty Blaize and her spiky-heeled sidekick Walter, deserve to be lingered on. Miss Blaize, as she is coyly referred to in the show, spends the opening scene putting her clothes on, before spending the rest of the time peeling them off. Described variously as "a decadent Ava Gardner-esque goddess" and "a velvety chocolate box of delights", Immodesty cavorts across the stage while shedding some of the glitziest costumes you're ever likely to see. Sometimes she strips on her own and sometimes accompanied by assistants including The Lady Grey Tease (who are ladies, but aren't grey), Spike Loons (who likes balloons), her rocking horse (who rocks) and, of course, Walter.

Walter, it has to be said, is rather less voluptuous than Immodesty Blaize, but then that's rather the point. Even when he does reveal an apparently bulging bra, it turns out to be filled with glitter rather than anything naughty. In almost every other way, however, Walter is VERY naughty. Donning a wide variety of costumes, Walter transforms himself into a splendidly bizarre cast of characters including a 'private dick', a trailer-trash teenie bopper and The Marquis de Sade. Walter's characters also regale us with songs ranging from jazz to pop, all accompanied by a pink and frilly pianist – no pun intended. Two things unite Walter's characters: firstly, they all end up with virtually no clothes on, and secondly, they all wear, what Walter himself describes as "F**king great shoes".

The more observant among you will have noticed that I have so far failed to mention tassels, the fabric fripperies which have in recent weeks been taking the world by storm. It is my great pleasure to confirm that Immodesty Blaize And Walter's Burlesque! contains no less than 78 individual tassels, attached to a beguiling range of body parts and rotating in almost any direction one cares to imagine…

Immodesty Blaize And Walter's Burlesque! is scheduled to run at The Arts theatre until 18 June.

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