Edinburgh Fringe 2011
There as many opinions as to how to a good burlesque show was there are sequins on a performers corset, but in the end it comes down to doing it right, or doing it wrong. And the Bra Ha Ha never gets it wrong. The clue, as ever, is in the name: there are equal amounts of laughs as well as tease, in a well-mixed cabaret night that should really be a fixed date in your fringe diary.
Being cabaret, it’s a different night each night, and on the night I was there, a mildly awkward moment occurs, early on the show, when a couple of girls in the second row are talking to someone else (this reviewer, in fact). Compere Lou Conran –always fabulous – asks what the problem is. Turns out the pair have somehow wandered into the wrong show. After a brief round of questioning, in which nobody can decide what the name of the intended show is (apparently, it involves a couple of Irish lads), the couple decide that they had probably better go to the show they’ve paid for, after some very gentle teasing that they’re making the wrong choice.
So, girls – yes, you two – this review is directly for you. This is what you missed: a excellent, frothy hour of comedy, tease and magic, complete with a plugged in ukulele, with everyone at the very top of their game. Guests included BraHaHa regular Piff The Magic Dragon, who – better on each appearance – sells his own show very well in just a few minutes, including some truly gasp-worthy close up magic, despite coming across as Jack Dee playing at being a ‘raptor.
The burlesque acts are – unsurprisingly – all beautiful and witty with their acts, Honey Wilds giving any hard-wired Labour voters something to think about, while Hells Belle is a gorgeous gothic act from the Valentino era. She’s followed by Audacity Chutzpah who manages that burlesque holy grail of being both hilarious and drop-dead sexy, all at the same time – all with elegance and wit, and even manages to make the theme to Desert Island Discs significantly more alluring than it’s ever been before.
There are always three reasons to see the Bra Ha Ha. There’s Lou Conran, a compere who makes her job look so effortless that it’s a fair bet that her fellow comics want to do her serious harm. Second, you’re always guaranteed very high quality selection of special guests – different every night – and then, of course, there’s Kitty herself. It’s fair to say that, as good as the other burlesque acts are, even if Kitty wasn’t in charge of the night, she’d still be the headline act – gorgeous, playful, and always in absolute command of her audience. It’s no surprise that the woman behind me can’t stop herself gasping ‘Oh, fabulous’ as Kitty twists and spins with all the sensuality and allure of a classic Maurice Binder title sequence.
So far, so perfect. So, why only four stars? Why not the full five? Well, now we’re just getting down to housekeeping, and this reviewer’s personal opinion. We want it to have more elbow room: even in an overcrowded schedule like Edinburgh where everyone’s trying to keep to 55 minutes, we’d like a proper, late night cabaret show running at a couple of hours. And the other reason is even more simple, but connected. It’s all about surroundings. Since the performers dress the very best they can, it’s only apt that the venue should raise the game, too: Something classier, somewhere sexier, somewhere – dare we suggest, in the style of a Spielgletent, would be ideal. Kitty and her gang in a Speilgtent type arena would seem to be its natural home.
As the audience leave, they bump into the two girls who had left, and are comparing notes. Certainly, Kitty’s audience are convinced that the girls have missed a great show, while this reviewer is having to check his watch, scarcely able to believe that so much fun, frivolity and sexiness has been successfully crammed into just an hour.