Burlesque show Burlexe is not a typical variety/burlesque show, more a theatrical experience about the lives of the women who created the medium – and I’m its artistic director Howard Wilmot.
You can call it the Vagina Monologues of Burlesque if you like – as that’s what helped inspire my unique burlesque show.
The story goes back to 2010… I’d always wanted to create interactive on- and offline formats (I’m a digital communications expert), and after a visit to, what I thought, a below par show in Vegas, I started dreaming. Initially, my idea was about showgirls, but over time and the obligatory many rejections, the idea morphed into a concept about burlesque.
After one such rejection, I was pissed off and wondering how I could do it by myself – and that was when the concept of the Vagina Monologues of Burlesque started to evolve (inspired by the cost-effective nature of that production as I was low on cash dollar: ‘Hey, that was just one woman on stage reading out of a book!’).
And so I started researching the medium and interviewing contemporary burlesque dancers – I was inspired by what I discovered: inspirational women who overcame all sorts of obstacles to create their very own magic, on their own terms.
Burlesque show Burlexe
So burlesque show Burlexe is a mix of these women’s stories, old and new, held together in a variety format with burlesque performances and song.
The first show arrived in November 2010 at INC Space in Covent Garden, ran for about 45 minutes and starred r’n’b singer Javine Hylton, then wannabe pop star Kyrah, actresses Chloe Ewart and Dympna LeRasle (who I chose from auditions) and burlesque dancers Fancy Chance (who also acted), Kiki Kaboom and Coco Deville, ably assisted by my friend Liz Simon.
I kinda made it up, but I was thrilled by the reaction (I’d left feedback cards on everyone’s chairs) and it gave me the confidence to keep going. Soon grande dame of burlesque, British Burlesque Legend and London Academy of Burlesque founder Jo King was on board, having helped train Javine Hylton for the initial show.
Cue a series of shows in June 2011 at a gay club in Soho, the Shadow Lounge – the venue was unique! – which pretty much sold out before we’d even started running them… who knew?!
As we moved forward, the Burlexe gang expanded with a director Jayne Hardy, new guest performers and acting talent, Gillian MacGregor and Lynne Austin (who came from the original auditions) and Kele le Roc, taking the mantle of hostess with the mostest.
I’m very proud to say people have loved it as much as me – or else everyone is a great liar! – and we’ve always generated lovely feedback, from being Time Out Critics Choice to…
‘Refreshingly relaxed format… an intriguing avenue for burlesque’ – The Stage
‘One of the most innovative and unique burlesque shows, this is a top quality event in an intimate venue with some of Britain’s best performers’ – Burlesque Bible
‘It made me feel proud to be a woman… I found this show to be enlightening, life affirming and exhilarating’ – Frost Magazine
‘The stories of these bold women are as entertaining to hear as they are enticing to behold’ – Erotic Review
‘I would give this show ten out of ten. You will be entertained’ – via Trip Advisor
And when in a casual remark to the Shadow Lounge, I mentioned someone suggested I do a men’s show, (male burlesque or) boylesque show Boylexe was born with the same format, strip roulette and Kele le Roc on rollerskates. Cue a new level of mayhem and me telling my burlesque story in monologue format…
Now, it’s August 2013 and the next incarnation of Burlexe is about to launch… we’re excited.