Cici Noir’s Spring Fling Burlesque

23rd February 2019: A Belated-Valentine’s Day Spectacular

“Cici invites you to celebrate the end of Winter and the start of warmer days…”

Cici Noir’s Burlesque Show was an extravaganza to say the least: a night of beautiful ladies and a colorful array of acts– from the saucy to the comedic– with barely a dull moment in between.

I had never been to a burlesque show before, and although the show has not radicalized me into a burlesque fanatic, I had a good time. Produced by the Rondo Theatre’s very own Pippa Thornton (writer and director of Fresher) in association with Flipside Studios, this belated Valentines show kicked off the beginning of spring with a saucy finesse to the delight of many. The show featured a wide variety of performances, not all of them sexual– including vaudeville puppetry with a modern Bruno Mars twist performed by Sylvia Hunt, as well as wonderfully quirky and relatable stand-up from Beth Hodd. It wouldn’t be a burlesque show without showing some skin, which this company certainly provides with some fruity performances from Violet Velvet, Phoxy Qurvy, Steam Tease, the burlesque troupe Cream Tease of Oxford, the infamous and titular Cici Noir, and more.

One of the more evident improvements of the show came with the premiere of a new host: Harriet Knight. Arriving from the Bell Inn’s LGBTQ+ Burlesque show, her character Joshua Beau Jangles has a stage name as colorful as her personality. She carries the show with her fun yet relaxed attitude that both new and old-comers alike could enjoy. As a particularly new new-comer, I appreciated her friendliness and her eagerness to laugh, helping people with all various levels of experience feel welcome. She spiced up intervals between acts with various types of games, involving patrons in picking dirty pick-up from a wig, playing the newly-wed game with couples, and even lip-syncing a scandalous (and creamy) musical number to a special audience member. All the performers were lovely and exciting, but by the end of the night Joshua Beau Jangles became my self-proclaimed favorite, and I look forward to the LGTBQ+ Burlesque at the Bell Inn.

Although they are still trying to find their footing as a company, Cici Noir’s Burlesque show has already made big strides since their premiere last Christmas season. There were still a few awkward moments when the audience would applaud only for the sake of trying to be energetic instead of just being it. Additionally, and unfortunately, some of the acts tended to also fall into a predictable reveal routine: turn around, take off the left bra strap, then the right, whip around for the showstopper: breasts with covered nipples (bear in mind, I am not an expert in burlesque, so I am not qualified– nor inclined– to critique the fruitiness of the show). That said, the performers rocked the stage with growing confidence and an infectious enthusiasm from their last performance. With each ASE term, this burlesque company is sure to get better and better, and I, for one, cannot think of a better study-abroad story than telling your friends you went to a British Burlesque show. With pop songs, comedy, and nipple-tassels galore, this burlesque troupe is sure to dazzle and excite, and I hope any ASE student come to see this rising burlesque troupe for a night of allure at the Rondo Theatre.  

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Olga Koch– Fight

8th March 2019: A Once-in-a-lifetime Story Bringing Laughs, Surprises, and a Rising Star

Olga Koch arrived at the Rondo Theatre Friday, March 8th with Fight: a story that must be seen to be believed, and with a voice that demands to be heard– both in the world of politics and in the world of comedy. A nominee for Best Newcomer for the Edinburgh Comedy Charming and humble (and with an outfit as vibrant as her personality), Koch graciously enters the comedy scene with, “Ten minutes of blue material before an hour of Soviet Union history.” Prepping the audience with jokes about compulsive lying and dating younger men, Koch then delves into the whirlwind that is the year 2014 in her family’s history. She tells the story of her father and his insane life in Russia politics, featuring game show hosts, embezzlements, oligarchies, arrest warrants, and disappearing in the middle of the night. Koch’s standup is one for the ages– a lifetime event that gives the rising-star precedent in this chaotic political climate, as any nationality can both laugh and learn from her story.

            The entire performances showcased the talent and humor of millennials, presenting the world with a new age of comedy. Koch embraces the stage with a young and infectious enthusiasm, as she sings, dances, and fights throughout the show– as well as kissing former (“Adorable”) Russian presidents. She utilizes technology to give her show a modern edge, showing on a projector baby pictures, historical photos that can’t be found in museums, and edited Pizza Hut commercials. Her show had a refreshingly young air that is only beginning to emerge in the comedy scene through the rise of millennial performers­, which I absolutely loved.

The audience, however, was not always with them. Like Koch, the opening act was funny and topical, kicking the evening off with everyone’s favorite topic in the UK: Brexit. I can’t comment much on it because I don’t know much about British politics, but I could imagine that anyone big on British-politics would love his jokes. The audience for both performers were generally quiet throughout the show, not giving back the energy the performers needed during their sets. I found myself wanting to break with the wall the audience put up from the show, as after Koch’s first joke, I became completely immersed in the show. Even the ending number, which other reviewers have called, “irrelevant” and “inappropriate”, I found hysterical. I was humming it to myself all the way home, which was rather worrying because the lyrics are fitting for a comedy show but not singing-in-the-kitchen-where-everyone-can-hear-and-judge music. Although Koch might not see the Rondo as a big success, I hope I was not the only person coming away hoping to see her again.

Overall, I had never had more fun learning history than I did with Olga Koch. I love her relaxed and confident personality, exuding a friendly attitude that everyone could connect. I’m not sure if she will come to the States anytime soon, but she has a Youtube channel, which I will include below (I’ll also have the link to her website below, but first I must mention that she put her Achievement section in quotations, which I found hilarious and relatable). In all, going forward in the young and evolving comedy scene, I hope to the name Olga Koch in lights more often.

Stephen Bailey

1st March 2019: Unabashed Stand-up with a Drunken Audience to Boot

Stephen Bailey rocked the house at the Rondo theatre Friday, March 1– delivering a night of big laughs and even bigger scandals. The renowned comedian hosts Celebs on the Farm, as well as appears on Comedy Central’s Roast and Live on the Comedy Store. This “Superstar in the making,” according to British Comedy Guide, had the audience laughing all night with jokes about working, online dating, and past performances. Even as a person who sometimes struggles with the more graphic jokes, I found myself comfortably laughing along with Bailey’s dirtier jokes, as he provided a fun and welcoming environment where everyone could laugh and enjoy themselves.

I’ll admit, however, that this review falls more in line with a story; although Bailey’s set was funny enough on its own, certain audience members that night provided their own entertainment. The crowd featured a joined stag and hen party featuring the groom and bride to be (“Someone has trust issues,” said Bailey) that arrived at the Rondo bar more than tipsy and ready to drink. For those who may not be familiar, a stag and hen party is another term for the bachelor and bachelorette party in the UK– why they use animals in the term, however, is beyond me. That night certainly helped illuminate the inner-workings of the term though, as it was a zoo before the event even started. As the lights dimmed and the room brimmed with excitement, the drunk stags and hens shushed each other in the silence that followed from across the room– despite the fact that no one was talking. After a minute or so, the party recognized that they were shushing each others’ shushes, and Bailey came out on stage to realize what the rest of us in the audience had already learned: that the audience itself was performing tonight.

For the rest of the night, Bailey bantered with the drunk stag and hen party– at one point he said, “I’m not even using half my material– I’m just going off you guys.” Turning what might’ve been an awkward audience for another comedian into a comedic opportunity, Bailey integrated the stag and hen party into his set, wanting to know more about them. The audience became more acquainted with everyone in attendance, especially a particular, “bachelor” named Valentine– who proved to be quite the flirt with another woman during the performance. Bailey made a show of the affair, throwing Valentine her scarf and setting up a date between the two of them. Bailey and the rest of the audience was horrified to learn, however, that Valentine is not a bachelor at all, and is in fact married, with a wife at home. The night was a roller coaster through and through, but Bailey handled it not only with ease but also with an infectious sense of humor that made the night all the more enjoyable.

Overall, people left Bailey performance at the Rondo in high spirits (whether literally or figuratively depends on if you were with the stags and hens). Bailey’s light-hearted and brassy stand-up gives audience members a fun night of comedy that many are sure to come back for– I know I would (and will, if he ever comes to the States).