Since 1989, every show at Crazy Horse – the venerable Parisian home of hyper-glamorous burlesque cabaret – has begun with a number called 'God Save Our Bareskins'. It features nine almost-nude girls in cod-Coldstream Guard get-ups, strutting and saluting in regimented time, and its machine-tooled delivery is a good example of the company's mode: idealised eroticism, high production values, attention to detail and about as much charm, warmth and humour as a fembot invasion.
The company has now taken up residence in a gaudy-chic Spiegeltent site behind the National Theatre for a 14-week London run. 'Forever Crazy' offers a baker's dozen of the troupe's tableaux in motion, featuring the mute, interchangeably gorgeous girls in various styles and configurations. Some numbers are sensually charged – Lila Magnetic knows how to writhe on a mouth-shaped sofa – and others are genuinely visually striking. Using imaginatively abstracted choreography, bold video projections (some interactive) and ingenious screening effects, the best routines are mesmerising, energetic and unlike anything else in town.
But too many pieces are inert and lacking in momentum and pleasure – erotic, perhaps, but not flirtatious. Others leave a bad taste: the single non-white performer, Yafa Yemalla, is the one placed writhing behind bars under leopard print and jungle drums; and the glibness of a piece supposedly inspired by the financial crisis can only seem tasteless in a performance site heaving with champagne sponsorship.
Little surprise that a guest spot by hand-dancers Up & Over It – a coked-up face-off played out through black tie, white lines and red eyes – brings the house down: it shows more sense of humour, narrative and audience awareness than the rest of the show put together. At its best, 'Forever Crazy' is an alluring realisation of a certain conception of glamour – but consummate superficiality only gets you so far.
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