Kirstin Innes discovers why the Glasgow Cabaret Festival is a shot in the arm for the neo-burlesque scene
What is it about burlesque just now? There’s a new club or class popping up every day, hundreds of dancers queuing up for slots at nights like Club Noir and Rockaburley, and now here comes the Glasgow Cabaret Festival, a week-long festival all over the city. More burlesque, right?
Wrong, as co-organiser Frodo McDaniel, who also runs the very successful Glasgow branch of Dr Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, explains.
‘My partner Louise Oliver came up with the idea, because she feels that cabaret and variety have been somewhat usurped by this neo-burlesque movement that’s going on at the moment. Suddenly, burlesque cabaret has become synonymous with relatively untrained, amateur goth girls taking their underwear off. Now, don’t get me wrong: I’ve nothing against goth girls taking their clothes off. But we felt that we needed to educate audiences in the sheer eclectism and variety that cabaret, and burlesque in the true, original sense of the word, can involve.’
And they mean that. McDaniel and Oliver’s festival takes in everything from visual art (an exhibition, The Art of the Temptress, at Art de Caf), cabaret aimed at children, including an open mic slot, at the Rio Café, a tribute to Scottish music hall legend Ivor Cutler featuring some excellent local bands, and a variety performance night, The Missy and Leyla Show.
‘It’s that sort of old-school, Play Your Cards Right kind of game show, hosted by Missy Malone and Leyla Rose, who are Scottish burlesque performers in the true sense of the word: they mix cabaret, humour and something darker into a burlesque routine.’
As well as a roster of excellent local talent across various art forms, Oliver and McDaniel are bringing international stars of the contemporary cabaret scene to Scotland for their own full-length shows. From San Francisco comes worldwide cult star Kitten on the Keys, a circus-trained, ukulele-playing, puppeteering pianist, with the European debut of her show Does This Piano Make My Ass Look Big?. From London comes Dusty Limits, a cabaret singer who McDaniel describes as ‘an absolute star in the Weimar, 1930s Berlin cabaret style’.
Weimar exotica aside, McDaniel’s own ideas of cabaret formed around the cosy familiarity of Saturday tea time television in the 1970s and 1980s.
‘I miss shows like Opportunity Knocks and New Faces, where all the acts were great, and you were really watching the stars of tomorrow. Those people who will dismiss the Glasgow Cabaret Festival as not for them are the very ones who sit in on a Saturday night, wading through bad performance on Britain’s Got Talent when they could be watching genuinely good stuff, live.’
Glasgow Cabaret Festival runs Sun 5-Sun 12 Jul, with proceeds going to the Britannica Panoptican Music Hall. See www.glasgowcabaretfestival.com for full listings.