Review: SuicideGirls Blackheart Burlesque at the Vogue Theatre

I didn’t know what to expect when I saw the SuicideGirls Blackheart Burlesque Tour. However, I left understanding that I wasn’t the intended audience. To enjoy the show, seeing nearly naked women has to be such a novel experience that one doesn't notice the mediocre dancing or the clumsy choreography. Each dance number followed the same formula: the girl(s) enters fully clothed (usually in a costume pertaining to pop/nerd culture), the girl(s) dance and take clothes off to reveal pasties and underwear, the girl(s) exit. Rinse and repeat. For two hours. In the stretch of the show, my companion kept leaning over to me and whispering, “It must be over soon. Right?”

 Photo by Chris Ortiz

Photo by Chris Ortiz

What disappointed me most is that the show didn’t live up to its promises of being alternative or subversive. I appreciated the diversity of body types and skin colour but aside from that the show lacked anything radical. Much of what took place happened in the name of subverting the status quo for laughs. For example, the audience participation relied on the subversion of gender norms which seemed to ultimately seemed to reinforce a binary understanding of gender. A heterosexual couple was brought on stage and the male partner in was asked to give his female partner a lap dance. The audience roared with laughter because a man took on a role most understand to be feminine.

However, what really irked me was the last round of audience participation. Ten women were asked to dance onstage. The one rule being "they could get as wild as they want". They danced for a minute or two, one woman pulled her body suit down to reveal her breasts , others crumped and twerked.  At the end, one woman “won” and was given a free one-year membership to the SuicideGirls.com. Both my companion and I agreed, seeing all but one walk away empty-handed seemed exploitative. Especially considering prior to this every audience member who had come up on stage received a free membership whether or not they completely fulfilled the tasks asked of them.

 Photo by Jim Hall

Photo by Jim Hall

Despite all this there were moments in the show I genuinely enjoyed. Sunny Suicide sang a raunchy rendition of A Part of This World and Katherine Suicide did a really fun poi/pokemon number-- pokeball bra and all. The banter between the performers and little gags between the numbers were fun and it seemed like all the performers genuinely enjoyed being there.

Prior to the last number, the host asked if we wanted to see another dance. A dull applause. She asked again. The same dull applause. Recognizing this tactic wasn’t working she shouted “who wants to see some more boobies?". The house lights came up and prodded a slightly more enthusiastic response. I got the distinct sense that by the end of the show I wasn’t alone in my boredom.