Now, either I'm losing my "touch of death" for cabaret or I'm finding the right sorts of performances for me. Bit of both perhaps. I do still find a lot of vanilla "sexy" performance frankly bemusing, but perhaps they also find we perverts and the things we like bemusing. Certainly it seems that taste is a big issue and there have been many recent performances all in the best possible taste, or my taste, at any rate.
Unsurprisingly, my tastes run to the queer, the impromptu and stuff done by my friends. There's a lot of cold water that gets thrown upon performances done by the "untrained" or "amateur" but several of the strip teases I saw at Barelesque, a charity event done at the RVT contained a lot more heart and soul - as well as that absolutely essential connection with the audience, that many professional performances can often lack. They were fun, rather than work and some shows I've seen, whilst slick and well-rehearsed do look an awful lot like work. And hard work at that. The sort of world-weary stereotype of a sexual performer, mechanically grinding away. This can happen in the industry, people get tired and the thrill can go out of it, there is a freshness in seeing something that has never been done before. Similarly, an audience can (note use of the word can, bad amateur stuff is just as dreadful as bad professional stuff but without the slick delivery) develop more of an engagement with a performer if they know who they are or know that this is their "first time". Public sharing in cherry popping, anyone?
This isn't to deride professional cabaret performers - of which there were several on the night, but to point out that it isn't the word "professional" that makes them good. It's the connection with people in the room and their performance capacity. A lot of perverts make good performers, especially the seasoned exhibitionists who understand the power of being watched and can tune into the feelings within a room. Some perverts make dreadful performers, but them's the breaks. The idea of newness is also important. Good performers make each audience member feel as if they are watching something special and unique - they tell a story that, though it might have been done a thousand times, is still fresh that night, for that person.
Speaking of fresh and along the same lines, I went along to Sleaze at Camden an "NYC style burlesque) last night to watch Jonny Porkpie and Mat Fraser to name but a few. The show was unashamedly lewd and crude, with lots of audience participation (and with plenty of perverts in the house there was ample opportunity for those exhibitionists to get their thing on) and whilst the stage was tiny and an element of "thrown together" prevailed it had the feel of being a shared conspiracy of silliness: something fun, sexy, light-hearted and done just for those people in the room - exactly what good cabaret should do. Yet beneath all of that, the performances were well timed and professional, the pacing was strong without feeling rushed and the room soon filled with screams of horror and laughter and mmm's of delight from the audience.
It's a delicate balancing act, akin to the whole "this old thing? I just threw it on" lies that those who spend hours getting ready might use to throw us off the scent. What looks as if it suddenly happened, is often very well planned. In a similar way, there's a strong connection between performance and scene building, a lot of thought goes into those precious few moments. Again, another reason why there may be a good crossover between perverts and performers. For my own part, I'm looking forward to doing some more of my own shows next year, as well as supporting others in developing theirs.
On with the show.