Phil Ingud and Kitty Bang Bang spent the summer bringing their brand of sexy fun to the London Wonderground. We caught up with the duo on the eve of their performance at the New York Burlesque Festival to talk comedy, fire and the what the London burlesque scene looks like.
Describe who you are as a performing duo.
Phil InGud: We’ve been dubbed ‘London’s premiere idiots.’ we’re a hot mess.
Kitty Bang Bang: Yes we’re a hot mess.
So you infuse comedy into your burlesque acts.
Kitty: In Europe at the moment, there’s been a movement away from the comedy. There’s a lot of pretty girls in pretty dresses doing classic burlesque, which is great, but there’s not as much humor left in it. I love when I come to the US because there are so many funny people, so much innovation and so much interesting burlesque. I do fire as well, so I mix in some circus with my burlesque.
Phil: The New York Burlesque Festival is my debut in the States so there’s a lot of pressure. I lean toward comedy. In London, the venues are very intimate and are usually heterosexual. There’s not a lot of boylesque in the UK, so if you’re in a venue and a boy is stripping, you can see straight away that people are uncomfortable. However, if you use comedy, you quite often win people over and can get away with more.
When did you first fall in love with burlesque?
Kitty: I found burlesque about ten years ago. My friend is a Playboy bunny and was asked to do a product launch and do a burlesque dance at it. We went to the library and got some tapes of Lili St. Cyr doing fan-dancing and I was transported. I helped her and ended up choreographing myself into the routine. Someone saw me do that and got me another job and it snowballed from there.
Phil: I fell into burlesque three years ago. I was doing Chicago and I was tired of doing eight shows a week. I’d gotten to a point where I needed to reinvent myself. A friend of ours, Polly Rae, was doing a show and she wanted boys in it. We came up with this American Pie/Cyber Sex act, again, I’m a premiere idiot, and I fell in love with it. I love the fact that the audience is so close, you can’t fake it. You have to be in the moment. I really like that.
Kitty: There’s a great autonomy to what we do. We’ve done other people’s steps and choreography, but what I love about burlesque is that you can put whatever you want out there.
Phil: It’s very therapeutic as well. We finished a show this season at the Spiegeltent at the London Wonderground and I did a piece about my breakup with my ex-boyfriend. It was very acting-based with some contemporary dance. I was a bit worried about it not being considered burlesque since it’s not traditional, but it was received really well and it was nice to hear positive things about something you’ve created. After you’ve been a performer for so long and have done other people’s steps, to put your heart out there in a piece and get great feedback from people is incredible and touching. Burlesque has helped me be honest on stage.
Where is the burlesque scene in London headed?
Kitty: There are a lot of live music and entertainment venues that are closing and things have become quite homogenized. There are some great places like the London Wonderground, which is a seasonal thing on the South Bank, and we did a show there. It’s a lot of original work. Polly Rae directed it and we all got to do our own thing. It’s one of the only places where I can do whatever I want and do something self-produced.
Phil: There aren’t many boylesque performers in London so there’s usually only one guy on the bill, which is sad because boylesque is up-and-coming in the UK. We are told they don’t want boys stripping in certain venues. Girls and guys, straight and gay, like guys stripping. It can be funny, it can be sexy, however it is, audiences want that.
So coming up, where can people see your work?
Kitty: I’m going to Detroit to perform and I’m doing some shows for Torture Garden in the UK. I’ve built a new prop which is an absinthe glass with a rim that sets on fire.
Phil: It’s epic.
Kitty: So it’s a fire show and ends with me bathing in the glass, a la Dita, but in a way trashier, more ridiculous way. I’ve got a sugar cube sponge that I fling around and get the audience wet.
Phil: I’ve got a few shows lined up and I’m revisiting a well-established show in the UK called Wam Bam. I have some ideas for some new shows so who knows what the future holds?
Photos by Ryan Brinson