Recent events in the press with the National Trust hosting burlesque in Devon and Cornwall certainly caused a stir, but it made a change from the usual woodland bug hunts and jam making workshops that seem to mostly be on offer. In actual fact, if you go down to the Westcountry today you're in for a big surprise. It's not at all like The Archers. From Bristol (where the world ends in both directions) and Wales and all the way down to the bottom end of England - yes that's Cornwall - there are burlesque and cabaret venues, established circus companies and pop up events happening in Arts Centres and small Theatres and other venues with an increasing frequency. Some quarterly, like the gas bill, but many bi-monthly and actually you can find somewhere to entertain you pretty much any time you like. Not just on your birthday.
So here's a look at my highlights of what's happening in the South West, starting in Wales and working our way down - a grand tour if you like from Llanelli to Land's End...
Bluestocking Lounge, run by Lilly Laudanum is an established bi-monthly burlesque club that brings top names on the international scene to venues in Swansea and Llanelli. As well as supporting new and upcoming local performers since it began in February 2010, Bluestocking Lounge has seen the likes of internationally renowned RedSarah, Diva Hollywood, Beatrix Von Bourbon, Missy Malone, Banbury Cross and more as headline line-ups.
'After Hours Cabaret' in Newport is a quarterly show run by Tom Stanger and promises to bring some of the very best in Cabaret and Burlesque. It is relatively new, started in September 2012 but shows promise.
Moving across to Bristol and beyond, there is so much going on that you can take your pick from everything from Street Parade events and pop up burlesque and cabaret shows to established venues. The best place to look for current and upcoming listings in the South West area is on the South West Burlesque Collective's website, CoochieCrunch.com but I am highlighting some here.
Pink Kitten Dance School is the main school of exotic dance in Bristol teaching burlesque, pole dancing, aerial hoop, and aerial yoga. Tabitha Tease, the owner is a professional aerial, pole and burlesque performer.
Burn Brightly Burlesque and Hoochie Coochie Kabaret are burlesque and circus shows that are regular and established events in Bristol, but 'The Copper Feel Cabaret' is one to watch as it is new and I really like the name. Hosted by Lou-leigh Blue in the heart of Bristol at The Old Stag and Hounds, their first show on 13th July will have acts from such varied performers as Tabitha Tease, Poppy Von Tarte and Bella Rouge.
Bristol also has its very own Dr Sketchy's Anti-Art School which is also run by Lou-leigh Blue at the same venue.
Rebelado showgirls, based in Bristol, but performing internationally as well as across Somerset and the South-West, are a professional Brazilian Samba organisation with dancers, stilt-walkers and drummers. They have been touring internationally for over 10 years but also provide family friendly entertainment in the form of Carmen Miranda street theatre walkabout and 'samba tots' interactive dance workshops for festival, circus and family entertainment.
Outside Bristol - wait, the world doesn't end there! - Shhh! Burlesque are based in Bridgewater and run by Bertrand and Lianne Vessier. They put on regular shows with performers such as Beatrix Von Bourbon, Anna Fur Laxis and myself (cough) at the Bridgwater Arts Centre and The Winter Gardens, Weston Super Mare. The next show in November offers a three-course meal alongside burlesque and cabaret performances and a Gypsy Swing band. I promise not to play the Worm Song...
In Exeter and in Torquay, Kinky and Quirky run by Mark and Sarah Bell, have been offering uncompromisingly top quality dedicated burlesque and cabaret shows since they first started in 2007. Their shows are always a sell-out and they have everything from upcoming innovative performers to the big names on the national and international scene. Performers such as Velma Von Bon Bon, Marnie Scarlett, Glorian Gray, Joe Black, Anna Fur Laxis, Missy Malone, Craig the Hula Boy, Ginger Blush, Shirley Windmill and many more have graced their stages over the years. November 2013 sees them evolving again as they move on from a monthly residency to a quarterly theatrical show and ball - and this time they are bringing over the Burlesque Hall of Fame 2013, Reigning Queen of Burlesque LouLou D'vil as the headliner as well as the winner of their recent Stars In Their Bras burlesque competion performing: Miss Angelique Dominique.
Past Exeter, the show goes on. In Plymouth at the far end of England and onward into Cornwall. The B-Bar at the Barbican Theatre, Plymouth is host to Kabaret Kaos nights, as well as comedy, music and 'Forked' performance poetry nights. They also do excellent thai food if you want to eat your way through a show.
Annabel's Cabaret and Discotheque , known to locals as the 'Kingdom of Night-Time Pleasures' is a cocktail and performance venue that has bands, Club Fandango comedy nights, burlesque and belly-dancing all under one roof. It is also host to burlesque and belly dancing classes, the students of which put on thoroughly enjoyable bi-monthly newcomer showcases as 'Kittys Dolls Burlesque', which are always a sell-out and have attracted a large local following. You might even see me there once in a while as resident musical dark cabaret act 'Miss Von Trapp'. Devon's Only Dark Cabaret Cellist...
And Finally, Cornwall... that remote holiday destination of pasties (non-sequinned), cream teas and beaches also has events. Yes it does. Sterts Theatre in Liskeard this month hosted MIssy Malone's burlesque show on tour, Hall for Cornwall has big burlesque events intermittently with national names, and all the way down in Newquay, home of the surfboard, the Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Club hold monthly events with acts that mainly come down from that Lahndan, and hosted by Babaliscious of Slinky Minsky. It all looks rather fun.
Cornwall is also home to the fantastic Swamp Circus , which is the region's first and only Circus Training school in the ancient pirate town of Penryn. They do everything from juggling to acrobatics, aerial dance to clowning and stilt walking. They have regular shows, circus clubs and even holiday camps you can send your children to while you enjoy a quiet week on the beach.
So there you have it. The world doesn't end at Bristol... And you can always pack some Cabaret with your cream tea as you holiday down to Devon and beyond. And you might even see me at some point...
To read my article first published on ThisIsCabaret.com please follow the links below:
Go South West, Young Man: A Guide to Cabaret in Devon, Cornwall and thereabouts Part One