★★★ | Boylexe, The Shadow Lounge, London

Last Friday, the Shadow Lounge in Soho, paid host to the boylesque show, Boylexe, which the company performed to a packed house of rowdy guys and gals, clearly in the mood for a fun night out. In the event, I’m not sure they got quite what they expected.

According to one of its performers, Phil Ingud, Boylexe is “a great night out filled with cabaret, stripping and touching stories… and a LOT of flesh!” which I suppose describes it pretty well. When I asked him how the show would differ from strip shows like The Chippendales and Dreamboys, he talks about the art of burlesque being different, less sexual, more about teasing and titillating, with no full frontal nudity.

So far, so good. Only I felt that none of the routines we saw at the Shadow Lounge on Friday night were titillating enough. Clothes were divested much too quickly and there was no real sense of teasing the audience with the possibility that they might catch a glimpse of someone’s naughty bits. Not that we need to see them, of course, but there should always be the prospect, the possibility. That is what titillating means.
A mixture of stripping and monologues, the show didn’t seem to know quite where it was pitching itself. MC, Alp Haydar presides over proceedings with an energy and enthusiasm, which manages to be both naughty and disarming at the same time, and the audience really responded to him, but this in itself caused problems, meaning that when Phil Ingut delivered his monologue about HIV, it was greeted with a rather uncomfortable silence. Maybe that was the intention. If so, it wasn’t made clear enough. Other monologues were less memorable and the strip routines, such as they were, did at least come as a welcome relief.

We got a whiff of the circus or music hall with the entertaining strong man routines by The Mighty Moustache (aka Sir Alexander Leopold), and there was a clever reverse strip by drag queen Mr Mistress, who defiantly takes to the stage naked and drags up before our eyes.

The line-up is never quite the same from show to show, and this Friday (December 6th), they will be joined by Nick Stiletto, who, I am told, delivers routines that are cheeky and fun, with a deft use of props, which is certainly more in the true spirit of burlesque.

As it is, it is a somewhat uneven evening. There is the potential for a great night out, but it needs to have a clearer idea of what it is trying to achieve. According to the strippers in Jule Styne’s “Gypsy”,

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You can sacrifice your saccro
Working in the back row.
Bump in a dump till you’re dead.
Kid, you gotta have a gimmick
If you wanna get ahead.

Maybe it’s gimmicks that are lacking.

Boylexe plays at the Shadow Lounge on Fridays throughout December.