It’s hard for a 75 minute performance to configure itself as a play of two halves. But somehow Between the Sheets manages it, turning from a slow show that drags its feet onwards, into something vastly more refined and exciting. It’s strange, to have your opinions of an experience lowered so vastly, only for them to be redeemed somehow by some utterly transformative performances.
Miss Polly Rae certainly knows how to live up to a show’s name. Between the Sheets takes cabaret burlesque to new heights – it is a sumptuously sexualised experience, nipple tassels are the order of the day. No matter what orientation, gender identity or cultural taste, there was something here to satisfy the senses on a late summer Friday night.
And it largely works cohesively. The aerial work in particular was awe-inspiringly vibrant, often quiet and sensual as opposed to some of the bombastic tracts that followed. The two male dancers equally performed what turned out to be a delicate, pensive meditation on romantic love. To cap it off, some fire swallowing (while eventually becoming repetitive) was a bright spark amidst a sensual show.
Things fall apart during some offensively unfunny stereotyping that occurs around the 20 minute mark. This put a giant speedbump in proceedings, as we’re subjected to a ten minute experience of one of the performers tries to find a husband to secure a British passport. It all seems superfluous and grossly off the mark in a show aspiring towards a form of sexualised levity that burlesque can often typify.
Our MC, Polly Rae, oversees proceedings with a perfunctory curtness, never overstaying her welcome and using her vocal and dance talents to maximum effectiveness. The costumes are equally fantastic, showing off a breadth of talent and skill.
The final key problem with the show was the overall structure – some of the climaxes felt too rushed or sudden. The show sometimes blew its load too soon, with strip teases being too speedy and mechanical. The cast rarely seemed to revel in the process, excelling instead when they get to perform their own personal acts. The burlesque was more of a facilitation than an overall intention.
So Between the Sheets certainly has a few high points, especially when it gets up and running again in the second act. However, the first act always felt like performers dragging their feet somewhat – uneven tempo for a night on the South Bank.