REVIEW: Banter, burlesque and magic at Lena Mae’s risqué variety show

The Hundred Watt Club team from the November show
The Hundred Watt Club team from the November show

Hundred Watt Club, The Old Market, November 5

Old-school mischief and timeless raunchiness collide at the Hundred Watt Club.

Lena Mae Lenman’s variety and burlesque cabaret is always a crowd-pleaser – the November 5 show was the second Club I’ve attended this year and I’m making plans to hit the next one in March.

I love a variety show, particularly a burlesque club – high energy and interactive, these events always leave you with a buzz.

Held at The Old Market, this month’s show was hosted by vintage singer Lili La Scala.

Characterised by a large, grey, sparkly bouffant, a penchant for the risqué, and the use of the term ‘darlings’ at least once in any given sentence, Lili kept the crowd’s energy high in between acts.

The appropriately named Didi Derriere opened the Club with a classic burlesque dance, and returned later with a perfect cabaret interpretation of Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ dance.

Griffin and Jones, the self-described ‘award winning idiots’ of slapdash magic, kept the banter fast and off-the-wall while performing their sleight-of-hand and escapology tricks for the audience, who they occasionally roped in to read minds or help strap them into straightjackets. Their jiggery-pokery kept the audience both impressed and laughing.

Ever heard of a Cabaret Cowgirl before? Meet Ayesha H, Western arts performer. The bullwhip bombshell of the burlesque scene, this Stetson-wearing, poncho-clad performer led two whip-cracking, gun-slinging, knife-throwing performances with astonishing skill and style.

A final shout-out has to go to Rubyyy Jones. ‘Stage presence’ doesn’t quite do Rubyyy justice – she’s hilarious, bold, high-octane brilliance. She had quite the following in the audience on the night, calling out her name in anticipation of her entrance, stage right.

Her final act, and the performance that stuck with me after the Club finished, started with a dance/lip sync rendition of ‘I Feel Pretty’, Maria’s iconic tune from West Side Story. True to form, the flower hair clips and bright tutu soon got stripped away and Rubyyy launched into what is best described as a social justice rant set to music. The aggressive drums of The Gossip’s indie classic ‘Standing in the Way of Control’ were spliced with audio clips from the notorious online video ‘Potty-Mouthed Princesses Drop F-Bombs For Feminism’. In this video, wage inequality, high levels of sexual assault and female objectification are addressed in a barrage of verbal anger, and juxtaposed with the outspoken feminist Beth Ditto’s song about resisting LGBT+ inequality, Ruby certainly creative a powerful and exhilarating – and occasionally hilarious – performance.

If the rest of the Hundred Watt Club served up vintage naughtiness and enduring smuttiness, then Ruby certainly brought the modern inspiration for civil disobedience.

Hats – and corsets – off to Lena Mae for an excellent night of entertainment.

The Hundred Watt Club returns to Brighton on March 10, 2017.

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