Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay, Sat 17 July
From the moment compère and queer drag diva extraordinaire Paulus stepped foot onto the stage, we knew we were in for one hell of a romp – talk about starting as you mean to go on. One of his opening numbers was The Masochism Tango by the brilliant Tom Lehrer, setting the tone perfectly as he hit the high notes with the ease of a seasoned pro aching to get back into those heels and in front of an audience.
Oola Pearl, the high class hellraiser that she is, gave us our first flicker of burlesque for the evening. She was on fire in her orange and gold free flowing outfit with fans to match, simply smouldering as she set the bar for the night ahead. Ebony Silk, the darling of Darlington via Jamaica, positively hypnotised us with an understated yet engrossing set – its sounds going from Mr Sandman to Billie Eilish to Ray Charles in the second half. Oh, how we enjoyed the many sides of this sumptuous siren.
On my last burlesque-themed visit to Wales Millennium Centre, the Cardiff Cabaret Club Dancers stood out for me – and they did so again, as this diverse ensemble nailed their group routine. Rarely do you see such individuality and precision of movement come together in this way, extremely well executed and so very sultry.
Foo Foo Labelle, who put the evening together, came next. Clad in police uniform, she certainly bossed it with her thrusting truncheon, blossoming into what I thought was the most poignant moment of the night – her rainbow routine set to George Michael’s Freedom. She blossomed again in the second half with a caterpillar performance that had the audience in stitches, followed by a euphoric, illuminated butterfly dance which – for me – stole the show.
Our headliner for the night was Belle De Beauvoir. She knew exactly how to satisfy her Welsh audience, with a very polished performance set to Shirley Bassey’s version of I Am What I Am. She came out in the second half in a green ballgown, which set against her flame-red hair provided a stunning look for a stunning routine. A burlesque powerhouse indeed.
One thing both of my visits to Wales Millennium Centre for this opening cabaret season have shown: the saying “leave the audience wanting more” is alive and well here. On both occasions we started at 8.30pm and we were all done by around 10 – and yes, I do want more.
words JAMIE REES