Reviewer: Jo Beggs
What’s not to like about a bit of Sunday night naughtiness? Once again Ministry of Burlesque bring a set of diverse, quality acts to the Lowry where the Quays Theatre is transformed into a cabaret club for the night. Compere Sammy Mavis Junior (the country singing porn star with a heart of gold creation of Sarah Louise Young) ensures the jokes are suitably filthy and the audience appropriately warmed up. They need to be. There’s an almost frosty air in the room for the first act – Alexandra Hofgartner – appearing like a Frida Kahlo self portrait in a huge frame, then emerging like a butterfly from a chrysalis as she dances swathed in a floating green cape. A buxom girl slowly peeling off a big furry tiger suit (Glorian Gray) gets some laughs and one or two slightly self conscious whoops, but it’s not until Jessie Pie &The Thorn take to the stage that the pace really picks up.
In character as a Russian singer, Jessie Pie invades the audience on her treacherously high heels, making the men sink down in their seats and their women shriek with laughter. One man – poor old Colin – doesn’t make himself invisible enough and gets dragged on stage for some fun and flirting. He’s reluctant to play along and she isn’t too cruel before depositing him back in his seat, but not before she’s delivered some great songs and character comedy, all to Chris Thorn’s live guitar accompaniment. They make a welcome return in the second half to deliver more of the same, pushing the audience a but further as Jessie crawls catlike across tables, belting out bawdy songs.
Frankie Lynne delivers some classic burlesque as she sparkles through a couple of pacey dance numbers and strips speedily down to her nipple tassels. Rod Laver gets laughs and gasps as he performs a delightful and unusual juggling act involving spitting out numerous ping-pong balls, and combines it all with some classy burlesque when he’s joined by the very lovely Alexandra Hofgartner – they make a great double act. Sarah Louise Young appears as one of her other characters – La Poule Plombée (The Frumpy Pigeon) – a knife wielding chanteuse whose career has come a poor second to ‘Little Sparrow’ Piaf. Young has rolled out quite a bit of tonight’s material previously at the Lowry as part of the her Cabaret Whore show, but it’s great fun and sits well in this cabaret line up. In the second half she performs a couple more songs as Sammy Mavis Junior – You’re My One Night Stand is a lot of fun – and thanks the audience for coming out to watch live cabaret on a Sunday night – it’s better than staying in and watching TV she tells us. She’s absolutely right, and if any of the audience are in doubt, the glorious Glorian Gray’s final trampoline striptease must surely convince.
Ministry of Burlesque are a hard working bunch and it seems there’s still an audience for this cabaret revival which, without quality acts, could have been a flash in the pan. High Tease is a great night of risqué and alternative entertainment and fills a gap in Manchester where there’s no proper cabaret clubs. A smaller, sleazier, boozier venue would be better – but in its absence the Lowry has made a great programming decision. Long may High Tease continue to shock and delight.