I went to my very first burlesque show on Wednesday. Despite having lived a five-minute walk away from Boulevard de Clichy in Paris a few years ago, I had never been to any of the shows, so I was excited to have been invited to The Magpie’s Cabaret in Pigalle, the former strip club in Thalkirchnerstraße.
Pigalle still looks very much like a strip club, with plush red sofas, a boxed-off area for private dances and the dancer’s pole. It has a seedy charm to it, a touch of “faded glamour”, as host Elsie Marley put it, and I’m glad that the new owner, Fabian Stingl, has kept the strip club chic. He’s made Pigalle into a hip, culture-centric location that’s very much at the heart of the Schlachthof community, and regularly puts on gigs, burlesque shows, and open stage evenings.
Before the cabaret got underway on Wednesday, guests were sprinkled in glitter, offered stick-on moustaches and provided with popcorn. Host and organizer Elsie Marley welcomed everyone with a song, before the other acts took to the stage. They included charming drag artist Faye Ashes, and Russian showgirl Anja Pavlova (voted Miss Burlesque Russia in 2013). Anja Pavlova’s fun dance to King Louie’s King of the Swingers was one of the highlights of the evening. Singer-songwriter Meister Oberneder performed a couple of witty, irreverent Bavarian songs, Sugar LaLuz performed a coy maid burlesque act (she’ll also be performing at the Munich Burlesque Festival at the Schlachthof in March) and Chili Deluxe repeatedly freed the stage from stockings, corsets and feather boas.
The show was lovingly put together by people passionate about burlesque. It wasn’t quite as glossy or as seamless as a cabaret performed by the Crazy Horse girls, but that’s what made it so lovely. The atmosphere was relaxed and informal and the performers were all personable, likable and sweet.
Afterwards, I spoke to Elsie Marley about the event, and how she came to create The Magpie’s Cabaret. Born in Munich, Elsie studied in Canterbury, England, where she developed her passion for performing arts and discovered cabaret. She explains: “I came in contact with burlesque through my love and fascination with cabaret, and I realised that this was exactly what I had been looking for. We have a saying that burlesque finds you – and so it did. I met the Munich burlesque pioneers The Filly Follies and began hosting their amazing show, Velvet Voyage.”
“My experiences in the world of burlesque come from a different point of view because I mostly perform as a host. But what always inspires me are the artists who are so passionate about their art form and who always aim to express their ideas of creativity and love in the most beautiful way. It’s entirely self-created, each act is lovingly sewn together, sequin by sequin. And we are all misifts in our own little way, some come from drama others from classical dance. Not having found our satisfaction there, we were welcomed and heartily pressed to the bosom of the burlesque.”
If you fancy an evening of debauchery, comedy and lots of glitter, stay up-to-date with The Magpie’s Cabaret’s upcoming shows on their Facebook page. The next show will feature Trillian, New Zealand’s best pole dancer.