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> > > Criptease at Southbank Centre's WOW festival
photo of a female burlesque performer with a fan of black feathers against a pink background

Millie Dollar performs at Criptease. Photo by Nina Mühlemann

New York Legendary Nightlife Artstar Julie Atlas Muz guest-hosts Criptease, an outlandish, outrageous evening of neo-burlesque celebrating disabled women's bodies for Women Of The World 2013. Nina Muehlemann reviews this burlesque performance by deaf and disabled artists, at the Southbank Centre on 9 March

Criptease, Mat Fraser’s disabled burlesque show, is back at London’s Southbank Centre. But because this time, it’s part of the Women Of the World festival, Fraser stays in the background and hands hosting duties over to New York burlesque superstar Julie Atlas Muz. After half an hour of music by DJ Blind Bling, Julie enters the stage, wearing next to nothing and balancing a giant bubble.

Glittering from head to toe, Julie coquettishly plays with the bubble ball to the soundtrack of ‘Moon River’ with a twinkle in her eye. She then holds it over her head, and manages to push her head in. She wriggles and pulls the giant bubble down, until she is fully inside, then grins at the audience and pops it. But it would not be Julie Atlas Muz if she did not immediately break this magical, enchanting moment without some raunchy jokes.

The first two acts she introduces are CripTease regulars – the beautiful Diva Hollywood and the gorgeous Millie Dollar. Both do wonderful burlesque that gives the Clore Ballroom a glamourous nightclub feel. Diva Hollywood gives us a cheeky ‘black swan’ routine that is delivered with a lot of humour and playfulness, while Millie Dollar’s classic burlesque is full of precision and grace. The audience, which is mainly made up of women, enjoys the performances tremendously.

After those performances and another round of American humour with Julie, Miracular Degeneration is on. Her piece was initially created for a project called ‘Showgirlies’ by Extant, Britain's only professional performing arts company of visually impaired people. The performance involves Miracular sitting on a chair, covered by a long red scarf. She is wearing nothing but lingerie underneath, and teases the audience with a seductive voice, describing her body, and thus also providing audio description of her show.

Miracular Degeneration then goes on to reveal her body parts, one by one, and asks the audience to describe them. This makes her piece interactive and a very thrilling experience for the audience. It also highlights burlesque as a visual experience, inaccessible to visually impaired people wihtout audio description.

After this stunning performance, we are treated to some live music by the New Orleans singer Alanta Lane. Then Penny Pepper enters the stage, reading from the ‘Crip Kamasutra’. Penny is sitting in her wheelchair, combining spoken word and storytelling in a seductive voice, while her female performance partner, wearing male drag, undresses her. Unfortunately bad acoustics meant it was hard to hear Penny’s words at times, which is a little disappointing. But it still makes for a startling performance.

Diva Hollywood then does another wonderfully exotic performance, in which she shows the audience her whipping skills, halving crackers with a lash. Millie Dollar then leaves us with a stunning performance with feathers.

The evening is ended by Mat Fraser and Julie Atlas Muz performing a duet. Mat is singing, while Julie is dancing and doing acrobatics around him, showing off her talent for physical comedy – and her amazingly flexible body.

Once again, CripTease has entertained very well, and shown us gorgeous deaf and disabled women. It was a pleasure to watch each performer reveal her own unique beauty, talent and body. A fitting celebration of Women Of the World indeed.

Millie Dollar gives her signature Blue Martini burlesque routine as part of a Criptease night at Southbank Centre last year