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The Stripper At St James Theatre: "a fabulous... musical noir with lots of camp and sleaze thrown in"

As a big fan of Richard O’Brien and Richard Hartley’s Rocky Horror (Picture) Show I couldn’t resist the opportunity to see The Stripper, a revival by the production team of Southwark Playhouse’s Toxic Avenger and King’s Head’s Shock Treatment (an adaptation of the film) of the The Stripper at St James Theatre.

It quite simply is a fabulous production and is basically a musical noir with lots of camp and sleaze thrown in. It is very much of its time, based on a 1961 Pulp Fiction novel by Caret Brown but also something that was clearly written for a late seventies/early 1980s audience. There have been suggestions that it is misogynistic and sleazy and it could be seen as that but it is very much a period piece and as such, it felt very inoffensive

The space in the studio is small and set out like a cabaret evening, which works perfectly in the burlesque club scenes. What truly makes the show is the cast, all five; Sebastien Torkia, Gloria Onitiri, Marc Pickering, Hannah Grover & Michael Steedon prove themselves as multiple characters with fast and smooth costume changes and strong voice in a superbly directed production by Benji Sperring.

The plot line of The Stripper is very simple; Patsy Keller (played by Onitiri) throws herself off a bridge, did she jump, fall or was she pushed? We are then taken into the sleazy world of stripping and dating clubs by the incredible Sebastien Torkia as Lieutenant Al Wheeler. He oozes charm and throws himself into the campiest of numbers like Man of Steel. It is also heavy on audience participation, if you are sat near the front prepared to be touched, stared into, flirted with and in my case used as Wheeler’s hat and coat stand on two occasions.

There are so many excellent numbers and I really enjoyed Glover as Sherry Mendez and Sarah Arkwright (a real musical talent to watch out for), Pickering as the florist Harvey Stern and Steedon as the limping and weak Jacob Arkwright and Onitiri as Deadpan Delores, which includes a stripper number, the only real shame is that these performers are in such a small venue with such strong voices but I feel the story and audience interaction would be lost in bigger venues.

Whether a fan of Rocky or Shock Treatment this is a great production to see if you want a fun night, with good songs and fantastic story to go with it.

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