Monday 25 August 2014

Review: Pandora's Box Burlesque Show The Cream Tease

Image from Skinny Mammoth
I recently attended Pandora’s Box Burlesque Show at the Hippodrome Casino, London. The Cream Tease burlesque troupe bought Greek mythology to life with contemporary dance, striptease, fire, aerial, singing and more. There was a great turn out for the first show which was great for all the cast who have worked so hard to put this show together.

At the point of the show at the very beginning when the cast members took to the stage I thought the audience would be introduced to the individual members of the troupe and any additional cast however the only introduction the audience received was the compere introducing herself. I personally would have liked to know who was performing before they start.

The performers made good use of the stage space available however the nature of the space provided some challenges. The stage is very low and a lot of the props were floor level and therefore could not be seen by all of the audience, at times I could not see what was going on at all.

There were first show hiccups which involved some costume malfunctions; the music was far too loud in places, stage kitten put on props on the stage once the audience were seated which could have been done before hand and removed items at times when options for blackouts or after scenes ended would be more appropriate.

All of that aside, there were some entertaining and captivating parts to the show. The evening kicked off with Divine Miss Em setting the scene and singing the first song Medusa. Unfortunately the music was too loud and as an audience member I found it difficult to hear the introduction and song clearly due to the sound levels. However, as our host and guide through the Greek legends, I was left wanting more, to be led smoothly from scene of scene. There was a subtle comedy to the show which worked against the rest of the theme and I didn’t feel the need for any swearing or brashness in the style as for me it didn’t work with the rest of the show at all. A stronger, more powerful presence would ease the audience’s path through the stories. I liked the fact that the compere was given a character to play throughout and I would have liked to see this taken further. There was a point during the show where Miss Em’s character Medusa sang ‘Trust in Me’ the Disney classic python song from The Jungle Book which I thought could be great but it just didn’t translate to the audience.

Sam Sheasby’s singing performances were outstanding. He proved himself to be a highly skilled professional. As he wasn’t introduced at the beginning I was left thinking ‘who is this guy’, I wanted to know as he is good at his craft. As a promoter I thought he was great and I would look for a singer of this quality for my shows. The lighting was set very well and the mood and atmosphere for the scene were created perfectly. The second time we see Sam singing the exact same lighting and staging was used which was disappointing. The scene was supposed to create a different mood and due to staging and lighting this just didn’t happen. His voice was great and Sam proved he is very skilled and talented however I would have liked to see his role more prominent in the scenes where he didn’t sing. At times his character came across as a pointless extra due to lack of dialect and interaction both with facial expressions and movement. It was great to see another person bought in to the stories and supporting the scenes and his singing voice was a true highlight of the evening. 
Eivissa Rose made a stand out performance throughout. I would have liked to see more from the Pandora’s Box scene. The show, being called ‘Pandora’s Box’ and the artwork used for promotion leads one to believe that this will be an integral part of what you can expect to see however the reality is that the scene is a very small part of the show in the middle which doesn’t have much build up or impact. I enjoyed her performance as Goddess Hestia and the revival of Isis wings made for a stunning burlesque performance. The costume used for this worked well and caught the light and the music for this piece was very grand and kept your attention throughout. She had very fluid dance moves and ease of removal of the costume throughout.This act also included a fire performance. The piece was very short and I had hoped to see more. The staging is small, too small for large scale fire breathing however more could have been done to give more of a wow factor.

The Hades (Sam Sheasby) and Perephone (Emerald Winnie Windsor) duet scene was interesting to watch with very fluid dance moves and a very contemporary style. The cast worked well together and bought a very professional piece to the audience. 

One scene which impressed me was the Dionysus scene using veil fans/belly dance from Sophia BonBelle. I really liked how the stage was split with different things happening in different areas; this really helped to keep the attention of the audience. Veil fans are not really used much anymore and I don’t often see them used well however the execution of this act worked and she did a good job. Sophia looked stunning and performed well throughout the show.

Vanessa VaVoom did a grand job as Goddess Athena. She had good eye contact with the audience with for me is very important. There was good music choices and good use of lighting levels to set the stage. Her dancing was fluid, quick and kept your attention due to her movement and tempo. The connection between the music pieces could be more fluid on the tracking. Vanessa has a strong dancing ability and held her character well. I personally didn’t like the stick prop used, I would have preferred a spear myself as the stick confused me when the rest of her costume worked so well. A little more fierceness and facial expression would have been good to see from her. All in all she gave a great performance.

There were two scenes for the nymphs, a woodland scene and water scene. I like the idea of the woodland and water nymphs although personally I found their routines to be the wrong way around. The woodland nymphs had a routine that was very flowing, fairy like, with an almost water like feel to it. Whereas the water nymphs routine seemed more wooden and stiff when you would expect something that more resembles water. Both were good in their own way, I personally like the woodland routine best. 

Lady Catalina took on the role of Selene Goddess of the Moon. The lighting used for this worked very well for this scene which is very important, especially as the etymology of Selene is uncertain, but if the name is of Greek origin, it is likely connected to the word selas, meaning "light". For this routine an aerial hoop was used which again worked with the theme. This scene gave an opportunity to focus largely on light and the costume didn’t allow for this. The biggest part of the costume that the audience see throughout the act is a plain body stocking. There is a small about of detail on the front which is what the audience want to see. Most burlesque costumes involve crystals which reflect the light and more was needed to make it stand out and really follow the light/moon theme for this act or something darker to show the limbs and movement off more.  It was good to see a change from the dance with a new skill set which was performed well.

I liked the Sirens act a lot. I think the lighting was probably the best on this act, as the blue light worked very well. The staging although simple with props was very effective. Aside from a costume malfunction on one of the mermaid tails, I felt the costumes looked good and were clever. The timing of the dance worked well, everyone was in sync and worked well alongside one another.

Lady Catalina takes on the role of Goddess Hera, the highly pampered queen of Olympus. The scene was very graceful although most of it I missed as the props were too low to the ground from my seat I couldn’t see what was going on, the bath tub was on the floor and I understood she was in there being bathed but the bath would have needed to be on a platform for all the audience to see what was going on. What I did see was as you would expect from Lady Catalina, very elegant and graceful. 

The final number was an Amazons scene which felt a little out of place compared with the rest of the show. It was very high energy and again the girls worked well together and bought a different style of dance which hadn’t yet been seen so far however it looked as though it would be a part of something bigger, like the scene needed more. As good as it was it wasn’t fitting and was hard for the audience to translate.

Pandora's Box is a show that has a great concept and offers great contemporary dance with a vast range of movements, heights and levels in their routines. You can expect beautiful girls, a great singer, some impressive costume choices however it is much more of a dance show first, burlesque show second. It most definitely isn't your traditional show! Certain individuals really shined and as a group they clearly work well together. 

Image from Skinny Mammoth

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