Kabaret Exposé

Proud City

A Neo-burlesque evening of naughty delight, high on talent but heavy on price.


Burlesque’s breadth and variety are commercialised with some success at Proud City, in the bowels of a Neo-gothic temple: The Minster Building: fitting that an architectural revival should be the home of this Neo-burlesque evening of naughty delight.

Building from comic shows and musical hall, Burlesque was a relatively modest Victorian theatrical form, falling from fashion by the turn of the century. But was the world ready to hang up their corset and feathered fan? NO! Mating with striptease, cabaret, and comedy it evolved, with an injection of class (pun intended) in the 1980/90s when Neo-burlesque slinked onto the scene. Dita Von Tease is a famous example, but earlier acts such as Gypsy Rose Lee and Mae West can be credited for the rebrand, elevating the affair from live light pornography to an alluring artform. Boy‑lesque, drag, and a shift to more diverse clientele have subsequently crafted the odd Frankenstein, on the fringes of the theatrical scene, cheeky, devilish, and thoroughly entertaining.

But how to franchise a concept that is originally both alternative and lavish? This is the issue facing Proud’s venues. A warning first, straight boys; this is sensual, not sexual, as the only pair of actual nipples on show were revealed in the audience participation section where three brides-to-be had a dance-off for a bottle of Prosecco. This is much more the female body for the female gaze, as hen do’s and (presumably) sexually frustrated couples populate, with overall 70% women in attendance.

Thankfully the acts are of a high calibre. MC Amy Black belts out bolshy renditions of show tunes, or modern songs with a 1920s twist. Titillating, haranguing us, and foolishly handing the mic to a very intoxicated hen with predictably car crash results, she strings the acts together, and we feel safe(ish) in her leather-gloved hands. Shade Flamewater brings the blast and magic, fire breathing, old-school pigeon-based sleight of hand and expected dubious facial hair. Kiki Moon and Miss Charlotte (Dickinson) provide fabulous costumes and slinky stripteases. Mel Lee and Ella Judge spin around dangerously close to our precious wine glasses. But the biggest hitter on the bill is Marie Devilreux, a vixen in every way. Like a tattooed Rita Hayworth, her acts are by far the most practiced, liquid, and feline. Sensual, and energetic she artfully elevates the gyrating to a waltz of seduction and feminine power. Hats (or tops) off to you Miss Devilreux. By the second act we have seen most of the performers and the repetition is a little unnecessary. Apart from Georgina NodaRayne Coram, and Charlotte Dickinson (the sexy roquettes of the night), the evening is solo-heavy, meaning that interest lags after the premise is worked out.

The high-performance standard is God (or should I say devil) sent as the venue is a little shabby (less Kit Kat Club and more Spearmint Rhino), the food mediocre (plain chicken, anaemic ham hock, and an admittedly lovely sticky toffee pud), and the booze eyewateringly overpriced (15% service charge on top of a £37 house white). But does a Burlesque show in The City scream an affordable night out, with high-quality food? No, I don’t think it does. Reading up on the tinter-web, the flagship venue, Proud Embankment, has been mutilated in the comments section with gripes about the food and slow service. With it also being marked closed, something is clearly going on behind the red velvet doors of Mr Proud’s empire.

However, in our experience the talent wins out. Plump for £20 show tickets, drink heavily before and spend an evening amongst the sequins, feathers, and perky bouncing bottoms. It’s certainly more fun than the cinema and almost the same price.

Kabaret Exposé plays at Proud City with no current end date. Further information and bookings can be found here.