Saturday, 30 July 2011

Kitty Cointreau Interview

The first time I met Kitty Cointreau was at the height of the 2010 Fringe Burlesque Controversy. A reviewer in The Scotsman had attacked burlesque as ant-feminist, leading to the most glamorous public protest until Slut Walk 2011, as burlesque acts took to the street to defend their art. I asked Cointreau to take over the editorial column on The Shimmy, and respond to the fuss. Her article clearly defended her right as a business-woman to develop her own take on cabaret.

What inspired you to take this particular path into cabaret? The Brahaha stands out in the market as a show not unafraid to take risks and bypass some of the more hypocritical aspects of burlesque...
My grandmother was a burlesque act and ENSA entertainer during World War II. She was also a contortionist and performed as 'the girl in the goldfish bowl' and did all kinds of sideshow routines. She was a great inspiration to me. It wasn't until 2006/07 when I went to see The Candybox shows in Birmingham that I realised there was a burgeoning scene for this kind of art and an audience clearly crying out for more.  I wanted to be a part of it. Seeing that show was a real turning point for me.
I think it’s important for shows of this genre to be different from each other. It’s not that BraHaHa is trying to bypass those hypocritical aspects of burlesque, but I do think that without risk, there is no reward. I wanted to create a show that was different from the majority of other cabaret shows out there. I love comedy and was a stand-up for a short while and wanted to bring together the two things that entertain me the most – great stand-up and gorgeous burlesque. We did face criticism at first for bringing the two styles together, but burlesque originally shared the stage with stand-up, so it seemed fitting to return to the roots of vaudeville. Two years later, BraHaHa is still alive, kicking, teasing and twirling and I’m proud to put my name to it.

 How does the new show fit into your usual approach?
Kitty & Jonny’s Speakteasy is an experimental rock n’ roll musical comedy show that I share with my friend Duncan Oakley who is performing as Jonny Wild. My burlesque is totally integrated and the tease is carried throughout the show until the big finale. It is a real synergy of my burlesque and Duncan’s musicianship. My approach has always been to just entertain the audience in whatever aspect of performance I’m involved in, be it music, comedy or burlesque. I’m a great believer that burlesque should be about laughing too.
Do you have any particular thoughts on the role of striptease in the cabaret revival?
Striptease has played a crucial role in the cabaret revival. The scene has just exploded, especially over the last two years, and the public has a fascination with burlesque and striptease. There is an element of curiosity about it. It has become the great ‘girl’s night out’ with the growth of the hen party market in this area. We also get families and couples of all ages coming to shows, from early twenties through to couples on their 50th wedding anniversary because it’s cheeky, bawdy, funny and glamorous, but totally non-threatening.  A great MC can help to foster a lovely, warm, supportive and inclusive environment, so it isn’t about letching, leering and dirty macs. People also love a bit of escapism and a reason to dress up and see some great entertainment.  It has a much broader appeal than I think promoters could’ve envisaged a few years back. I’m very proud to be involved in an art form with such a great history and I’m looking forward to seeing what the future brings terms of new audiences, scale and the new acts everyone can put together.
 Is there much difference in the two shows that you are bringing to the Fringe this year?
BraHaHa takes a vaudeville approach. Programming the show every day and picking exactly the right mix of guest acts from award-winning stand-ups, to burlesque darlings, to great magicians to music acts and circus artists, is the key. Speakteasy is my rock n’ roll ‘toddler’ that allows me to work more collaboratively. The two shows offer a different style and tone to the fringe audience

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