Naughty but nice Burlesque star brings show to Essex
B urlesque has gone mainstream in recent years and leading the way has been Amber Topaz, one of the most popular stars of the scene.
A Yorkshire lass, Amber originally came to London to study musical theatre but found it hard to come by work at times despite her first job being as a lead opposite Ron Moody.
"The nature of the business is you go to audition after audition," she explains. "You're always waiting around for work, waiting for a role to come up that fits you.
"Eventually, I got a job but I found the dream was more fun than the reality, you're just a cog in the machine. So I was a bit disillusioned by it all."
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Instead, Amber, who describes herself as an "all rounder" as a performer, started writing her own songs and when she was having photographs done to publicise them, she was asked to model for a pin-up shoot the photographer was doing. He said she should have a go at burlesque and even came up with a stage name for her, Amber Topaz. She's not looked back since.
"I'm doing my eighth year of burlesque now and it was still underground back then," says Amber. "I did it for a bit of fun, I thought it would be a bit of a laugh. I'd never taken my clothes off on stage before but it didn't feel like being a stripper because that's for men.
"Obviously, burlesque was originally an erotic dance for men but it doesn't feel like that now. The audience we get is 60 per cent women. It's about you being your own boss"
A lot of women talk about burlesque being empowering.
"I'm not sure the act of taking your clothes of is empowering, but I make my own costumes, I make up my own routines, I choose the songs I do, so that's what is empowering. You take the bull by the horns, you're in charge. I give it the old razzle dazzle, I'm all singing and all dancing."
And the audience is very much in on the fun aspect of it.
"It's all a bit saucy, isn't it? It's intrinsic British humour, all about innuendo, like the Carry On films. And for the audience, it's a licence to dress up as well when they come to see the show. It goes hand in hand with the vintage revival. People like dressing up for the shows, to dress up to go to the theatre."
It's certainly big business, with Amber about to embark on her third tour with An Evening Of Burlesque and travelling all round the world in recent years. Even Amber's grandmother approves:
"My grandma loves it. She's 80 now and when she comes along to a show she really enjoys it. And my parents always dress up when they come along to see it."
Amber is the leading lady of An Evening of Burlesque and other stars include compere Kiki Kaboom, glamour kitten Miss Hotcake Kitty, classical pianist and fan dancer extraordinaire Chrys Columbine, explosive bombshell Slinky Sparkes, the clown queen of burlesque Audacity Chutzpah, the knife juggling AJ James and gravity defying hula-hooper Kalki Hula Girl.
"It's lots of fun and not too risque," says Amber of the show. "We've got a circus act, a variety act, classic burlesque, what we call a cheesecake 50s style pin up, showgirls... there's something for everyone.
"It's burlesque, so there's lots of variety. You'll be laughing, you'll be entertained, you'll be dazzled."
An Evening Of Burlesque is the Playhouse Theatre, Harlow (01279 431945) on Friday, May 11 at 8pm and then at the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend (01702 351135) on Friday, June 29 at 8pm. Please note, this is an over 18s show only.