BREVIEW: The Gilded Merkin Burlesque & Cabaret @ The Glee Club (B’ham) 20.10.19

Words & illustrations by Emily Doyle

The nights are drawing in and the mornings are getting darker. But that does mean The Gilded Merkin is back for its biannual slot at the Glee Club… so it’s not all bad.

Compering tonight is Virgin Xtravaganza, a London based drag performer and comedian who’s appeared everywhere from Torture Garden to Radio 4.

Cutting an imposing silhouette in skintight blue velvet, Xtravaganza’s character is that of a shrill, sexually frustrated mother of Christ. Between joyously blasphemous musical numbers she finds the time to be genuinely warmVirgin Xtravaganza - by Emily Doyle (Old Bort Designs) in introducing the acts, alongside great chemistry with stage manager Mimi Libertine.

Scarlett Daggers is first to perform. The curator of The Gilded Merkin always has some impressive performances up her sleeve, and tonight is no exception.

Daggers totters onstage to ‘Monster Mash’, her body covered in balloons resembling eyeballs, and, grinning, pops them one by one in an up-tempo strip. She’s treading the line between goofy and sexy with the expertise of a seasoned performer. Later in the evening the audience see her more sultry side with a performance of her tried and tested ‘Cobra Woman’ act.

Scarlett Daggers - by Emily Doyle (Old Bort Designs)

Up and coming neo-burlesque artist Cleopantha struts through the audience in her first appearance as a lounge version of ‘Crazy in Love’ fades in over the PA. Her steamy fan dance and floor work to this number leaves a trail of crimson ostrich feathers behind for Xtravaganza to pick up. Cleopantha turns up the heat with her second performance, a vivacious striptease to Cardi B’s ‘Money’ in homage to animated sex symbol Jessica Rabbit.Cleopantha - by Emily Doyle (Old Bort Designs)

It’s not all G-strings and nipple tassels tonight, though. ‘The Tom Show’, aka Tom Balmont is on hand to provide some comic relief in the form of traditional sideshow acts – although it wouldn’t be unfair to say that Balmont leans on his good looks just as much as anyone else on the bill tonight.

He dislocates his shoulder to squeeze through a tennis racket a la record breaking Norwegian contortionist Captain Frodo. The sight of his limp, flailing arm as he jiggles the frame down over his shoulders elicits squeals from the crowd, who’ve been uncharacteristically reserved this evening.Tom Belmont - by Emily Doyle (Old Bort Designs)

Balmont also invites one hesitant audience member up on stage to check the integrity of a sword which he proceeds to swallow, before inviting the squeamish participant to pull it back out of his esophagus by the handle.Havana Hurricane - by Emily Doyle (Old Bort Designs)

Providing some of the evening’s more traditional burlesque is international performer and, “professional whirlwind” Havana Hurricane. A carefully paced routine to Doc Severinsen’s ‘Stardust’ feels timeless in its opulence, as Hurricane peels of layers of mint green chiffon and feathers.

Her second number is more animated, as she twirls her way out of yellow and pink boas like a seductive fruit salad sweet until she’s left statuesque in a thong and diamante pasties. Well, one pastie to be exact – both of Hurricane’s performances see her right nipple exposed in a wardrobe malfunction that could almost have been planned, leaving her to coquettishly cover herself with one hand as she takes a bow. Xtravangza delights in shouting “free the nipple!” as she leaves the stage.Duex Ailes - by Emily Doyle (Old Bort Designs)

The highlight of this edition of The Gilded Merkin comes from Deux Ailes. This wife-and-wife acrobalance duo treat the crowd to two routines of dance and hand balance feats, including a smouldering tango to José Feliciano’s version of ‘Roxanne’ from Moulin Rouge. Clad in matching red lace bodysuits and heels, the pair weave together lifts and balances in an electric performance.

Once again, Scarlett Daggers and co have put together a show that’s equal parts entertaining and alluring. From contortion to musical numbers to good old fashioned nudity, tonight delivered all the bang for your buck that we’ve come to expect from The Gilded Merkin.

For more on The Gilded Merkin, visit 

For more from The Glee Club venues, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit


NOT NORMAL NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To learn more about the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign, click here. To sign up and join the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign, click here.

If you have been affected by any of the issues surrounding sexual violence – or if you want to report an act of sexual aggression, abuse or assault – click here for information via the ‘Help & Support’ page on the NOT NORMAL NOT OK website.

BREVIEW: The Gilded Merkin Burlesque & Cabaret @ The Glee Club (B’ham) 17.03.19

Words & illustrations by Emily Doyle

It’s St Patrick’s Day, and rather than elbowing their way through Digbeth with a Guinness in hand, the patrons of The Glee Club tonight have opted for an altogether more opulent evening. Once again, Scarlett Daggers has assembled a not-too-motley crew for another edition of The Gilded Merkin.

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Since its inception in 2012, The Gilded Merkin has dazzled audiences up and down the country, and tonight is set to be no different. Our host for the evening is Joe Black, dark cabaret performer and musical comedy extraordinaire.

Dripping in sequins and chiffon, he kicks off the evening with a histrionic performance of the Rocky Horror Show’s ‘Sweet Transvestite’. He makes a point of directing some choice lines (“I’ve been making a man/With ginger hair and no tan…”) at Stage Door Johnny, another regular host at the Merkin, who is sat in the front row. By the end, Black is a little out of breath, but jubilant.

“I bet some of you thought, ‘Oooh, we’ll see some nice dancers, and maybe a man in a suit will come out and sing us a song.’ And here I am, dressed as the moon.”

The line-up for the evening offers something for all tastes. Didi Derrière’s blonde bombshell looks lend themselves to classic burlesque, which she performs with a jazzy twist. Her first performance is a smouldering strip-tease to Madonna’s ‘Vogue’, complete with top hat, cigarette holder, and a tribute to that eye-endangering bustier by John Paul Gautier. All duckwalk and motorik arm movements, Derrière’s choreography is precise and full of character. We see her more playful side come through in her second performance of the night, a bejeweled tribute to Marilyn Monroe set to ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’. Rhinestones fly and she shimmies out of a magenta gown – Black is quick to gather them up once she’s left the stage, shouting “MINE NOW” through the curtain and stowing them in his shoe for safekeeping.

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Storm Hooper comes across as one of the night’s more modest performers, in manner if not necessarily in attire. She bills herself as ‘one of the UK’s leading Hula Hoop speciality acts’ on her own website, but apparently when Black asked her how she’s like to be introduced, she just told him she didn’t mind. Black takes this as a challenge, and proceeds to do his impression of a wild cat for what he himself describes as “an awkward amount of time”, pausing only to shout back through the curtain “IS THIS WHAT YOU WANTED??” When Hooper makes it onto the stage, it’s clear she needed no introduction. Clad in a neon yellow, leopard print bikini and clutching an array of light up hula hoops, she performs a bombastic routine to ‘Born to Be Wild’, bathed in suitably seventies blacklight. Her second routine, a showcase of her contortion abilities, is a little heavy on the floorwork for the venue, but the front few rows of the audience seem suitably taken aback.

Arran Shurvinton brings a complete change of pace to the evening with his Nosferatu character. Whether he’s wandering on stage before his queue or lurking at the back of the room while the other performers are on stage, his affectionate portrayal of ‘Noss’ is captivating. The unreal makeup plays a big part, the but the core of the character is in his facial expressions, which range from petulance to a shy smile. Some audience members might recognise Noss from a certain viral video, which sees him shimmying through the racks of Brighton vintage shop Beyond Retro – wearing bloomers and a sequined crop top.

Former winner of ‘Best Newcomer’ at the London Cabaret Awards, Lilly Snatchdragon has a lot to live up to. Her neo-burlesque stylings don’t disappoint, as she manages to be sexy, funny, and confrontational. Her first act plays on the character she builds on social media of a SE Asian women on a quest for a British husband and the passport to match.

Snatchdragon climbs out of a laundry bag and explains her plight in a series of Subterranean Homesick Blues-esque signs, before launching into a striptease routine that makes the audience squirm in their seats. It culminates with her removing her dress to reveal a Union Flag, which she proceeds to floss between her legs. Some would argue Snatchdragon gave herself a hard act to follow, but those people obviously didn’t expect her to return for a second performance wearing an Ewok costume. She removes this, piece by piece, to reveal some light up lightsaber nipple tassels, in a routine that’s as entertaining as it is baffling.

Of course, it wouldn’t be The Gilded Merkin without a performance from the evening’s cackling puppetmaster: Scarlett Daggers. She treats the crowd to two routines tonight – the first sees her totter onstage in an oversized gift box; Daggers dismantles the costume panel by panel until she’s stood on stage in nothing but a pair of diamante nipple pasties and matching C-string. Long suffering stage manager Mimi Libertine, the woman who keeps the show running like a well oiled machine, quickly gathers up the discarded props in time for the next act.

Later in the evening, Daggers performs her iconic ‘dragstrip-tease’ to the sounds of Aerosmith. A spin on the classic fan dance routine, Daggers waves two chequered flags coquettishly as she shimmies out of a thoroughly rockabilly get up, complete with gingham shirt and neckerchief. She produces a bright red oil can to ease her way out of her skintight leather pencil skirt, which she pops open with a twitch of the thighs. With the room in the palm of her hand, it’s easy to see why Daggers is the showrunner.

And so, the night comes to an end – though not without a few more musical numbers from our host Joe Black, including a deeply unsettling re-imagining of George Formby’s ‘When I’m Cleaning Windows’. As the lights go down on another night at The Gilded Merkin, it’s a sad thought that there’s a whole seven months to wait until the next one.

For more on The Gilded Merkin, visit

For more from The Glee Club venues, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit


NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To learn more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, click here. To sign up and join the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, click here.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this feature – or if you want to report an act of sexual aggression, abuse, or assault – click here for information via the ‘Help & Support’ page on the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK website.

BPREVIEW: The Gilded Merkin Burlesque & Cabaret @ The Glee Club (B’ham) 17.03.19

Words by Emily Doyle

It’s that time of year again; The Gilded Merkin is coming to The Glee Club, back in Birmingham on Sunday 17th March.

Minimum age of entry is 18years old, with doors open at the Arcadian venue from between 6pm and 6:45pm. Advance tickets are £15 +booking free and can be bought directly through The Glee Club, click here.

Last time Birmingham Review headed to Scarlett Daggers’ acclaimed cabaret, we were treated to Chap-Hop, a human blockhead act, and the go-go stylings of Dave the Bear. So, what’s on offer this time around?

Dubbed ‘one of the leading forces in the dark cabaret genre’, Joe Black is sure to make an impression. He’s shared stages with Eddie Izzard, The Tiger Lillies, and is a regular performer at London’s infamous Torture Garden nightclub. To top it off Black puts on a regular revue, the House of Burlesque, in his hometown of Portsmouth, so he knows how to run a show too.

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Character burlesque performer and member of queer performance collective The Family Fierce, Lilly SnatchDragon will also be performing.

SnatchDragon’s performance is informed by controversial South East Asian stereotypes – as she puts it in her press bio, “Lilly discovering she maybe getting more marrying interest if she doing the Burlesque dancing as well. Lilly do so good showing western peoples how silly they looking at S.E Asian women, she win ‘Best Newcomer’ at London Cabaret Awards 2015”.

Known for their disarming makeup skills (and despite a very committed online persona, their entry for the NYX Face Awards 2016 confirms it is makeup), Arran Shurvinton will be performing as their much-loved Nosferatu character – that’s ‘Noss’ for short. It’s certainly an offbeat choice, but Shurvinton is strangely pragmatic about it: “While I was trying to develop my character persona for stage work, my physicality and art deco gothic aesthetic pointed the way to the 1922 Nosferatu by F.W Murnau”, he told Beyond Retro in 2017.

Bringing some classic class to the proceedings is blonde bombshell Didi Derrière. Her cleverly choreographed acts adds a jazzy twist to classic burlesque, and her pin-up looks have seen her featured by vintage lingerie brand What Katie Did.

Storm Hooper will also be taking to the stage, bringing a taste of the circus to The Gilded Merkin. One of the UK’s leading Hula Hoop speciality acts, Hooper was a featured performer at the sell-out internationally touring Evening of Burlesque theatre show – seeing her perform internationally with her hoops to places as varied as Milan, Beirut, Latvia and the Seychelles.

Last but not least… it wouldn’t be The Gilded Merkin without an appearance from the lady behind it all, Scarlett Daggers. A fiery redhead whose looks are only outshadowed by her talent, Daggers’ rockabilly flair makes her a favourite at car shows and tattoo conventions up and down the country. Known for blending traditional striptease acts with fire-eating and fetishes, Daggers is certain to leave you hot under the collar one way or another.

The Gilded Merkin presents a showcase of burlesque and cabaret at The Glee Club on Sunday 17th March – presented by Scarlett Daggers. For direct show information, including venue details and online ticket sales, visit

For more on The Gilded Merkin, visit

For more from The Glee Club venues, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit

ED’S PICK: April ‘18

Words by Ed King

Easter Sunday, 1st April… There’s probably a joke in there somewhere. But with a basket of listings and entertainment based excel spreadsheets to plough through who has the time to be witty? Or hunt for Easter eggs, for that matter. Being an adult sucks.

However (…are you ready for this segue) it does allow me to enjoy all the delights of the Flatpack Film Festival without worrying about ID – actually, I’m not sure there’s too much on the programme with an age restriction but Dots & Loops are part of the festival and they brought us Lesley the Pony Has and A+ Day!, so…

Back for festival number 12, those glorious creatives at Flatpack have put on a nine day smorgasbord of celluloid, digital, and other audio/visual treats – running from 13th to 22nd April, in a variety of venue across the city. Too much to cram into this round up; look out for our more in-depth cherry pick in the days to come, or click here for more direct information on the full programme.

Elsewhere in the non-greenfield, Ebola flirting, footwear wrecking land of multi-stage events, we have the Birmingham Literature Festival – hop scotching from various corners of the REP to the Birmingham and Midland Institute from 27th to 29th April. Now old enough to drink beer in America, this year’s Birmingham Literature Festival has a focus on women in literature and publishing, alongside a weekend long programme of ‘inspiring conversations, writing and debate’. Again too much to adequately surmise, but click here for more direct info.

Following on with a female focus, Birmingham Jazz launches its Legends Festival on 27th April – running as a series of satellite events across the city until 20th May. This year’s linchpin is ‘Celebrating Women in Jazz’, with local artists such as Trish Clowes joining a myriad of talent from across the globe. Too much to fit into… you know the drill, click here.

Theatre comes in all shapes and sizes this month, including a couple of choice cuts on Hurst Street – with Wicked beginning its Birmingham run at the Hippodrome (4th-29th Apr) and The Twisted Tale of Hansel and Gretel at the Patrick Centre (4th– 8th Apr).

Across the duel carriageways and road works we have Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock coming to the Birmingham REP (10th – 14th) followed by the political see-saw of 1970’s Britain in This House (17th – 21st) – reminding us fear mongering comes from both sides of the aisle and a dash of vitriol isn’t a particular new idea. How times have changed… or not.

Music takes its usual fat belly slice of our monthly listings, with a few ‘big gigs’ of notE coming to the NEC portfolio – as the Genting Arena sees both Arcade Fire (15th Apr) and Dua Lipa (17th Apr), whilst Arena Birmingham welcomes the Manic Street Preachers (27th Apr) back to the city.

Playing across the non-arena rooms of our musical city, the Hare & Hounds has another eclectic mix – with Kushikatsu Records presenting Shonen Knife (15th Apr) followed Snowpoet (19th Apr) courtesy of Jazzlines. Whilst The Glee Club sees the very welcome return of Nerina Pallot (9th Apr) stopping off in Birmingham on the second date if her UK tour. Fingers crossed there’s a piano on stage.

The Sunflower Lounge sees Killer Wave and Outlander host their ‘Help the Homeless’ pay-as-you-feel charity fundraiser (8th Apr) – with all money raised going to Shelter and Tabor House. Then we have Lucy May Walker playing her first headline show in Birmingham (18th Apr) – both events well worth a stop, look and listen. And £5 of your hard earned cash, of course.

Our mobile branded venues see a bevy of acts this month too, with the O2 Academy presenting George Ezra (4th Apr), The Vaccines (7th Apr), Trivium (17th Apr), The Streets (19th Apr), Coasts (21st Apr) and Akala (24th Apr). Whilst the O2 Institute leads out with Walk the Moon (7th Apr), Little Comets (14th Apr), Aquilo (16th Apr), Of Mice and Men (25th Apr) and Sharon Needles: Battle Axe Tour (26th Apr).

A special mention also has to go to the Hummingbird-Menagerie-Indie-salad days-nostalgia trip coming to the O2 Academy with Love From Stourbridge – featuring The Wonder Stuff and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin (14th Apr). Someone pass me my German army shirt, skateboard and a can of Red Stripe, we’re going early 90’s feral…

And if you’re committed to your anti-corporate support of live music, never fear as mac welcomes Juice Aleem & Surge Orchestra (21st Apr) whilst Mama Roux’s serves two sides of the musical rainbow with The Herbaliser (19th Apr) and Mallory Knox (24th Apr)… probably not a good idea to get those dates mixed up in your diary.

Elsewhere in the city, comedy offers a relatively strong respite from those kids and their music – with The Glee Club presenting Tony Law (13th Apr), Alun Cochrane (15th Apr) and Craig Campbell (22nd Apr).

Or if you just want to stand and stare, you could waste a happy hour or two at Lewes Herriot: The Glass Arcana exhibition at Artefact in Stirchley (13th – 14th Apr). Or watching the flyers unfold with an exhibition from the seminal 90’s ambient electro club Oscillate, at Centrala (16th – 28th Apr) – bearing in mind there is an end of exhibition party with HIA and POLE (28th Apr) so you might want to do more than actually just stand and stare. Or not. Depends how you dance to Sun Electric, I suppose. Necking enough amphetamines to kill a small horse always worked for me, but vegetarian options are available.

But to end on the most glamorous of high notes (pun absolutely intended) Paul Alexsandr and Dragpunk present Candyland at The Nightingale (6th Apr) – a choc full celebration of ‘local and national UK drag of all genders, sexualities and abilities that you’ll adore.’ Then at the other end of the April rainbow, Opulence are launching Mother’s Meeting at Bar Jester (28th Apr) – a band spanking new ‘performance night dedicated to showing off a variety of drag and queer talent across Birmingham and the U.K.’, with special guest Charity Kase joined by a pageant of the Opulence crew on stage and Elliot Barnicle on the decks.

Birmingham can be proud for many reasons, but the cross over embrace of its drag community is one to really get those flags waving. We love covering it, and it seems the punters of Birmingham love supporting it. So, Vive la/le drag community of our fair/fairer city, alongside all who sail on these most wonderful of waters. Save some energy though, Birmingham Pride is a mere calendar page turn away.

And wait, I’ve just thought of one. A Jewish carpenter and a 6ft rabbit walk into Cadbury World…

For more on any of the events listed here, click on the highlighted hyperlinks. Ed King is Editor-in-Chief of Review Publishing, which issues both the Birmingham Review and Birmingham Preview. To follow Ed King on Twitter, click here.

BREVIEW: The Gilded Merkin Burlesque & Cabaret @ The Glee Club (B’ham) 18.03.18

The Gilded Merkin Burlesque & Cabaret @ The Glee Club (B’ham) 18.03.18

Words & Illustrations by Emily Doyle

It’s a Sunday night and The Gilded Merkin has returned to The Glee Club in Birmingham. Patrons fill the room. Two litre jugs of the venue’s signature ‘Long Island Iced Glee’ litter the tables. The lights dim and the audience buzzes expectantly.

Stage Door Johnny - The Gilded Merkin @ The Glee Club 18.03.18 / Emily Doyle (Old Bort Designs)Our host for the evening is the charming Stage Door Johnny. He casts an eye over the full room and congratulates the audience on making it through the snowstorm outside. Thankfully, he muses, it’s not as severe as the forecast predicted.

“This isn’t the first time I was promised six inches.”

Stage Door Johnny does all he can to make every person in the room feel welcome. He briefs “burlesque virgins” on how to behave, giving everyone a reminder of the etiquette in song form. Functional as it may be, his background in musical theatre shows; he’s currently doing a turn as Sweeney Todd at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre.

Once the room is sufficiently warmed up, Stage Door Johnny welcomes The Gilded Merkin performer and producer, Scarlett Daggers, to the stage. Known to regulars as “the lady behind the merkin”, Daggers is eager to kick off proceedings with her ‘Tiki Tiki Boom’ act and appears draped in an oversized lei. She performs a fast-paced, playful striptease to Los Straitjackets’ surf-revival classic, ‘Kawanga’ – to be left standing in a tiny fringed bikini, at which point she produces a pair of fire-orange silks.

DaggersScarlett Daggers - The Gilded Merkin @ The Glee Club 18.03.18 / Emily Doyle (Old Bort Designs) then performs a scarf dance which, presumably due to health and safety restrictions in such an intimate venue, replaces the fire eating portion of this routine. The silks don’t have the same glamour as flames, but when she ends the act standing triumphantly in pants and pasties, no one feels hard done by.

Mr B. The Gentleman Rhymer is next to perform. The Gilded Merkin’s stage manager, Mimi Libertine, assembles a mic stand and a board of looper pedals as Mr B. arrives on the stage, clad head to toe in tweed. He holds a banjolele. Mr B. performs his in his own musical style – ‘Chap Hop’ – and combining comedy rap with electro-swing beats, he opens with an ode to gentlemanship, ‘All Hail The Chap’.

“It’s a call to charms, a design for living,
Within a world so unforgiving,
Where sloth and banality are the standard brew.
Well, we’ve upped our standards,
So up yours too!”

As is true of many comedy musicians, the punchline comes early on in the performance. The set holds up well musically, though, and Mr B.’s lyrical delivery is flawless. He performs a hip-hop melody which weaves its way from The Sugarhill Gang to Public Enemy, followed by a Blackstreet parody with the refrain “No dignity (were you dragged up?)”.

Stage Door JohnnyMr B. the Gentleman Rhymer - The Gilded Merkin @ The Glee Club 18.03.18 / Emily Doyle (Old Bort Designs) reappears to introduce his royal hairiness, Dave the Bear – who swaggers on stage like a brawny Captain Jack Sparrow, swigging from a bottle as a gruff sea shanty plays over the PA. He poses centre stage with his arms in shackles, and winks; in a flash, the shackles are off and the feathers atop his bicorne hat have begun to litter the stage.

Dave the Bear is a delight to watch as he poses, pouts, and sprinkles glitter into his chest hair. This does, however, leave our stage manager Mimi a lot of sweeping to do before the next act can take the stage – as Stage Door Johnny warns the audience that those of a nervous disposition may wish to look away, before allowing Lolo Brow to come out.

Mimi Libertine - The Gilded Merkin @ The Glee Club 18.03.18 / Emily Doyle (Old Bort Designs)A table is laid with an assortment of items – a mousetrap and a staple gun are visible. Brow flings the curtains aside and storms to the front. She wears thigh high boots and a red military jacket tucked into a tight latex waist cincher. Extinguishing the cigarette she was smoking, on her tongue, she proceeds to flip the audience off before pulling a small hammer from the top of her right stocking. She then performs a classic ‘human blockhead’ act choreographed to Rihanna’s ‘S&M’.

There is visible delight on her face as she invites a member of the front row to remove a nail from her nasal cavity, before replacing it with a pair of scissors. By the end of the act, Brow has playing cards stapled to her thighs and chest; the audience winces as she staples the final card to her cheek and takes a bow, leaving behind a mucus ridden condom. Lucky Mimi.

Stage Door Johnny re-emerges to close the first act. And after Lolo Brow‘s performance, everyone is ready for a trip to either the bathroom or the bar.

Dave the Bear - The Gilded Merkin @ The Glee Club 18.03.18 / Emily Doyle (Old Bort Designs)In a change of pace, Miss Betsy Rose is welcomed to the stage to perform her 1950’s inspired routine – ‘Ode to April’. Miss Rose luxuriates in an enormous lilac feather boa and invites audiences members to help remove her golden gloves, before upping the tempo for a bump and grind routine. Her opulent costume and period accurate soundtrack evoke a 1950s American burlesque club; every step is carefully choreographed and it’s easy to see why she is so well regarded.

A hulking figure now appears at the back of the room, shrouded in furs. As he walks through the crowd, his long nordic braid swings from the top of his head and down the back of his cloak. He carries a hammered shield. Reaching the stage, he turns and strikes a pose lifted straight from an ancient Greek vase. He looks up, and grins. Dave the Bear has returned.

Tamar Braxton’s dance hit ‘Hot Sugar’ kicks in. Without missing a beat, Dave the Bear’s posture goes from gladiator to gogo-dancer. He whips his braid back and forth and struts across the front row, shimmying out of each item of leather armour until very little is left to the imaginationLolo Brow - The Gilded Merkin @ The Glee Club 18.03.18 / Emily Doyle (Old Bort Designs). Both of his performances tonight rely on a kind of bait-and-switch, building up an archetypal macho male before joyously tearing that character to shreds with glitter and kissy faces. The most masculine thing about Dave the Bear’s performance isn’t his hirsute torso, but his brazenness.

Mr B. rounds off the second act with another set, this time featuring a cover of David Bowie’s ‘Starman’. Whilst this does dilute his chap-hop persona a little, it’s refreshingly heartfelt.

After another short interval, Scarlett Daggers remerges. This time she wears a floor length fishtail dress, complete with embellished cobra hood. Over the course of the act she sheds this skin to reveal a floaty, chiffon number. Stage Door Johnny then takes centre stage to perform his own interpretation of Edith Piaf’s ‘Non, Je ne regrette rien’ – think Flight of the Conchords’ ‘Foux Da Fa Fa’ and you’re half way there.Miss Betsy Rose - The Gilded Merkin @ The Glee Club 18.03.18 / Emily Doyle (Old Bort Designs)

Lolo Brow is welcomed back with a collective intake of breath, but she assures the room that this will be a more visually pleasing act. “My name’s Lolo Brow and I’m going to take my clothes off”

Her purple dress and green hair are reminiscent of the Joker, and tonight we are all going to be a part of her social experiment. She explains that she has given the sound engineer an mp3 player loaded with two-hundred tracks, ranging from stripper staples to the soundtrack from High School Musical. The mp3 player will be set to shuffle, and Lolo Brow will begin her striptease. If the audience wants to hear a different song, they have to shout “change”. This is ‘The Burlesque Shuffle’.

What ensues is perhaps the most anarchic five minutes to ever grace the boards at The Glee Club. The beauty of the concept is that Brow’s performance is different every time. On this occasion it opens with Liberty X’s noughties banger, ‘Just a Little’, and culminates in Brow revealing her bedazzled nipples to the strains of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.

The final performance of the night is Miss Betsy Rose. Following straight on from Lolo Brow is a bold juxtaposition, but it works. Her routine, titled ‘Lady Sublime’, is a sultry affair that echoes 1920s burlesque – draped head to toe in mint green sequins and sporting an enormous feather headpiece.

Set to a version of Duke Ellington’s 1927 ‘Black and Tan Fantasy’, this is without a doubt the night’s most decadent performance. Miss Betsy Rose lets down her hair, shrugs of her robes and executes the splits with balletic precision. The Gilded Merkin is brought to a fitting climax. 

The Gilded Merkin returns to The Glee Club Birmingham on Sunday 14th October – presented by Scarlett Daggers, with Abigail Collins, Anna Fur Laxis, Kiki Lovechild, Missy Malone and Demi Noir also performing. For direct show information, including venue details and online ticket sales, visit

For more on The Gilded Merkin, visit 

For more from The Glee Club venues, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit