Brighton’s new burlesque hotspot strips away the pastDate: 26 April 2012
The Hanbury Ballroom in Brighton, despite being a stunning building, has been quite run down for a very long time. Until now. New owner Alex Proud has pumped huge amounts of much-needed money into the place, and has just launched the latest in his chain of venues, Proud Cabaret Brighton.
The 18th century Grade II-listed building, featuring a trumpet shaped copper dome, was originally built for the Sassoon family. From the outside it is just a large, square, fairly uninspiring structure – but that contrasts wonderfully with the interior. From the moment you walk in, your eyes are drawn to the elaborate paintings on the inside of the dome, the tremendously chic décor and, something which is all too rare these days, proper cabaret-style seating.
Opposite the stage is a staircase which leads to the brass-clad bar, either side of which there are smaller staircases leading to a couple of VIP tables perched high above the crowd. On either side of the main room the seating is in booths, with smaller tables for between two and four people set out in the middle of the room. The lighting effects inside dramatically enhance the décor and the overall effect is one of decadent, exotic glamour.
We are shown to our seats by our waiter, John, a very enthusiastic and friendly young man, who introduced us to the venue, recommended items from the varied menu, took drinks orders and really made us feel very welcome indeed. He then went on to serve our food which was, not only perfectly cooked, but absolutely delicious as well.
While we were still eating, part one of the three-part show began. I have to confess to never having seen a burlesque show before, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Far from the seedy strip-show I had envisaged, what is presented is remarkable tasteful and, although there is a lot of nakedness, I have seen more explicit displays on the nearby nudist beach.
The performers’ names are almost as exotic as the venue; the show begins with an introduction by the host for the evening, Vicious Delicious, a fast-talking French woman with a tremendous singing voice. She introduces us, one by one, to the parade of international burlesque acts on the bill. Banbury Cross, a Marilyn Monroe lookalike, starts us off with her version of “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend” and finishes the song wearing little more than the aforementioned diamonds.
The show is not all about the ladies though as, also on this evening’s bill, we have BRITish HEart – I’m not sure of the significance of the capital E unless it should be read as He Art. His story is that he has been frozen since the 80s and has just thawed out to launch this brand-new club. He bursts on stage dressed from head to toe in Lycra which is soon removed to reveal his “Human Discoball” outfit underneath. Once again his act is not overly explicit and, in deference to the fact that some of us are still eating, one part of his anatomy remains covered!
Both the second and third parts of the show feature yet more of the best international burlesque performers including the award-winning Kiki Kaboom, who showed us the routine that won her the title of Best Burlesque Performer last year; Chi Chi Revolver, performing a tremendously entertaining hula hoop act and “Count” Adriano Fettucini, who stunned the audience by undressing while perched high on a unicycle. Between these amazing performances the audience is also treated to the comedic routines of “The Winner of Baghdad’s Got Talent” – the fantastic Baghdad Idol.
It all turned out to be a tremendous success and a great sample of the extensive programme of events that will be held at the venue every month. It looks as though there will be something to suit everyone, as the themes cover music and performance from the past 100 years.
Blind Pig celebrates the roaring 20s, Saturday Night Swing the 30s and there is even a Sunday tea dance to cover the 40s. The 50s night is called Rockabilly Rampage, the 60’s night is titled Happy Days and, just to show how inclusive they can be, there is a gay night called On Broadway, which promises an evening of “Burlesque and Boylesque” until the regular closing time of 2am.
Owner Proud, is convinced that he may never recoup the half a million pounds that he has invested in the venue but with the combination of good food, great performers and a theme to suit just about everyone, I think he may be underestimating the supper club’s potential. He is concerned about the location, which is slightly off the beaten track, but, to combat his fears, he has even supplied an open-topped double-decker party bus to ferry his clients from the city centre to this incredible, slightly naughty, but extremely enjoyable hidden gem.
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