Ipswich: Traditional burlesque act reveal all... about new show

The Agent Burlique maids are on a mission to bring sophisticated sexy back; entertainment writer WAYNE SAVAGE reveals all... about the troupe, nothing else, sorry ladies.

A nanny; a call centre worker, a vintage model, a tattoo shop owner, a bloke, just some of those shedding their inhibitions and more at Ipswich’s Manor Ballroom this Friday.

Troupe director Madame Sapphire Rox is quick to get something off her chest, so to speak, about what guests can expect at the official launch party - stripping and burlesque aren’t the same thing.

“I talked to everybody who auditioned beforehand saying we’re not looking for G-strings, perverse dancing; we’re looking for theatre. That probably ironed out some of the people who thought ‘actually no, I just want to go and get a pole dancing job’ or people who thought ‘I’m not theatrical’.”

Sapphire promises audiences won’t feel uncomfortable. It’s not about the amount of flesh flashed, which isn’t a lot, she adds; it’s about the fun of the tease.

With authentic burlesque there’s always a reason to take your clothes off, she adds. You could be a messy housewife and your clothes get covered in cake mixture or perhaps you’re performing for the troops during the war.

“I want people to enjoy themselves, to feel involved not embarrassed or shy. It’s very theatrical, much more of an act than a dance; we’re actually telling a story.”

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The maids already have an army of fans, with the Wattisham Military Wives Choir keen to work with them after being wowed by their gig at the Suffolk airfield. Two 70-year-old women stopped a couple of the girls at a recent vintage fair, saying they’d inspired them to get their sequinned dresses back out.

With a hula-hooping contortionist, magician, fire-breathing stiltwalker, rockabilly band, cigarette girls and a vintage music playing DJ, next Friday’s show promises to be some party. Audiences are encouraged to induldge their passion for vintage fashion; with a bottle of champagne for the best-dressed guest.

“Hopefully it’s going to be a real step back in time,” says former dancer and mum-of-two Sapphire, stressing authenticity is key for her girls.

“They make their own clothes - we’ve had one staying up all night sewing and sticking individual crystals on her dress - you don’t buy your underwear from a discount shop,” she laughs. “Your hair will be done in vintage style, very high heels are not done and lace top stockings are a no no.”

Sapphire started the agency after seeing burlesque in London.

“My friends would say ‘I wish there was some burlesque here’. I had to do it. Ipswich needed it and I needed something that fitted in with my family life as well; it was a calling.”

Potential maids weren’t shy when it came to turning out for the Ipswich auditions a few months back.

“It was funny, there wasn’t anybody I really thought ‘oh my god you’re atrocious’. I was really looking forward to that Simon Cowell moment, ‘actually no, please put your clothes on’,” she laughs.

“It seemed the people who were confident enough to do it already had their foot in the arts. We were really impressed with the auditionees.”

Sapphire currently has more than 20 performers on her books and is looking to add more.

“For two of them it’s their full-time job. [Others] have other jobs. You’ve got your job that brings in the money, I think [this] satisfies that feeling you’ve got something creative within you. It’s a big thing to do; it’s funny though, you get so comfortable within minutes and it’s hugely empowering.”

The maids have gone down particularly well with women.

Sapphire often has them coming up to her after shows saying “thank you for making me feel like a normal person despite the fact I have curves” or “I love the show because everybody was different and it made me feel good about myself”.

Using women of all shapes and sizes was important.

“I was in the theatre, I was a dancer; post-children I looked like a woman. I’m no longer obsessing about the way I look. The first burlesque night I went to was the first time I felt ‘my God, I’m actually quite happy with who I am and the way I look’. It was that which really appealed to me about burlesque, that you can take that to a huge range of women and say ‘actually, you’re fine as you are and you’re gorgeous’.”

She finds performing fantastic, laughing it’s the best job she’s ever had. “When I say I work as a burlesque madame people say ‘when’s your next show or your next class’, ‘so and so’s getting married can we do it at her wedding’?”

Sapphire promises everybody a great night out.

“Audiences have been so receptive. One of my girls does a Minnie the Moocher routine. Every time she’s done it the whole audience sings ‘hidehidehidehi’. They’re not meant to but they all join in, everyone’s singing along, the feeling in there’s wonderful.”

When all’s said and done, it’s still a burlesque show so sorry, no under 18s.

“That way we can also get a bit lairy in a Minnie the Moocher Way,” she laughs.

This Friday’s show starts at 8pm, with regular nights scheduled as well making themselves available for hen nights, Christmas parties and so on. They’re even planning to hold burlesque classes.

“We’re going to get everybody learning to take stockings off beautifully,” smiles Sapphire.

Performing next Friday are:

Miss Magic Jones, compere and magician; always hilarious and often found with her nipple tassels on fire and she revs up the audience and then performs her kill Bill act where a real samarai sword undresses her.

Miss Cherry Magpie, cute and peachy, hilarious and beautiful; born to brighten the day.

Miss Daisy Black, a hula-hooping silk performer blessed with 1920s beauty and hand-made glitzy costumes to mesmerize audiences.

Lou Safire, a dance trained, fire-breathing boylesque performer smoking with art, creativity and passion.

The Sin Yorita, a Spanish Madre, strong, fierce and heart-warming you never know what she might bring to the stage.

Miss Scarlett Fever, As red as a beautiful sunset she’ll inject you with burlesque and maybe the most colourful of illnesses.

Vivacity Bliss, winner of Burlesque Idol straight from Madame Jojo’s stage in London, the only burlesque dancer in the UK known to dance to Justin Beiber.

Miss Vix N Von Doom, A vintage model and fairy-tale extraordinaire, often found with a wolf’s head in a basket her calling was to entertain to troops in the 40s...she was just a little late.

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