Writer/ Performers: Chic BonBons
Reviewer: Daniel Perks
A title such as The Glamour of Yesteryear immediately conjures up images of black and white film stars, looking flawless in their vintage costumes at the height of Parisian chic. Now there is no question that Chic Bonbons, a five-piece cabaret and burlesque troupe, are incredibly beautiful ladies in spectacular costumes. But, unlike the title suggests, an air of classic Parisian glamour is somewhat missing from this hour-long performance showcase. Glitz it has, star quality not so much.
A backlit white screen provides silhouettes of the performers as they first come on stage in a venue that is far too small for the showcase they are planning on providing. Sweet Waterfront is a conference room turned black box theatre for the Brighton Fringe and best suits intimate, smaller productions that can hit home with emotion and less with superficial tricks. Not so here – the intention of The Glamour of Yesteryear is an homage to cabaret greats, classic burlesque and legendary vocalists. Fiery redhead Natalie Gray takes up the mantle as chief singer in this troupe, tackling the likes of Christina Aguilera and Jennifer Hudson. A powerful voice, yes, but in a room this small the sound levels are all wrong which causes some very uncomfortable off-key moments in the songs. Gray needs a bigger space to feel with her voice; subtle layering is not her strong suit.
Equally too over the top for the space is the dancing. While the solo performers just about get away with the space, group numbers feel claustrophobic and tight. Burlesque is an exceptional art form, combining subtle hand gestures and winks with more obviously sensual movement. With more than one dancer on stage, all subtlety is lost and the ladies themselves are left exposed. Comparable to the awkward pauses in between numbers where the sound engineer doesn’t hit the next track quickly enough, the show isn’t as slick as it needs to be. Sharp, in time and confident routines are required here and the majority of numbers simply don’t hold their own. Trying to look sexy on top of chair is made all the more difficult when your extended arms hit the suspended ceiling tiles of the converted conference facility.
Given that the show is only an hour long, there are a whole host of different numbers that must have taken a lot of effort to put together and this does come across. Execution and creativity, however, are in need of work. Yes, this show is meant to be a tip of the hat to classic burlesque, but in order to stand out it needs to incorporate more novel ideas than feathers, fans, suspenders and chairs – staples of a good burlesque show that can be used in new and exciting ways to keep the audience entranced. This French-inspired feast is more forgettable than fabulous.
Runs until 29 May 2016 | Image: Contributed