Following the demise of the Soho Revue Bar, cabaret is looking for a new home. Miss Polly Rae and her Hurly Burly Girlys have decided to take their brand of vintage burlesque onto the stage of the much larger, and more mainstream, venue of the Leicester Square Theatre - Live From Leicester Square is their weekly, late-night, Friday residency.
Polly and her girls provide fantasy-fulfilling fun - from air hostesses to cavegirls, by way of a comic take on Swan Lake; the cheeky quartet are as much stars of the show as the smouldering songstress herself.
They certainly put lashings of sparkle and sauce into their showgirl routines, and Polly’s elegant fan dance is captivating, but I still think burlesque is best in an intimate venue. Those seductive winks and lip-biting looks rely upon a rapport with a close audience, so sit up front to get an eyeful.
Putting the variety into variety show, they’ve brought along some of their cabaret friends, but also some of the technical glitches - errant lighting and silent keyboards - which are more forgivable in a club environment.
It doesn’t seem to bother most of the crowd though - a mixture of cabaret scene regulars, Leicester Square lads and mainstream theatregoers.
A camp host and a tap-dancing juggler seem to serve mainly to give the troupe time to put their clothes back on, but mixed bills are always a mixed bag.
Stealing the show is musical comedy act Frisky and Mannish, a pair of bright young things whose pop-star pastiches will surely send them supernova. Frisky’s loud attire - a red wig, silver corset and long, frilly skirt - and equally loud voice, give her the stage presence to dominate the venue. She belts out their twisted takes on pop classics with enough welly to be heard on the other side of Leicester Square. Mannish, on keyboard and vocals, provides a deadpan, scary-looking foil to Frisky’s diva-like delivery, but is equally versatile and talented.
Girls Aloud and Kate Bush songs come in for some clever re-interpretation and you’ll never think of the Pussycat Dolls’ Beep the same way again, once you’ve seen this duo’s jovial, vaudeville version.
With the support acts changing on a monthly basis, it’s a bit of lottery what you’ll get, but why not dress up, order a martini, stay out past your bedtime and take a chance on some cabaret?
- Eileen Strong