I first met Miss Banbury Cross (not her real name) as she was doing her hair, right before her performance at The Tassel Club. She’s an up and coming burlesque performer and Marilyn Monroe impersonator based in London. Her shows have taken the burlesque scene by surprise, and she has already been featured in several magazines.
On this particular evening, Banbury was performing at the Proud Cabaret, a posh restaurant close to Monument tube station that features an intimate stage complete with a grand piano.
There were several other performers backstage, and while Banbury’s blonde hair certainly stood out, it didn’t really hit me until I saw her perform, as to why she was the featured performer that evening. Before I say any more about Banbury, lets take a look at some of the other performers with unique acts…
Pixie Le Knot (also not her real name) is a contortionist who’s half Malaysian. Here, she’s stretching against a wall, and you can actually see my feet on the left.
And here she is right before the curtains open, as she’s doing some last-minute stretching.
Unfortunately, I don’t remember what the next two performers are called, but they were certainly noteworthy.
Again, on stage before the curtains open.
So back to Banbury Cross (is it kosher to reveal these performers’ actual names? I feel weird referring to human beings using the Miss + not-an-actual-name nomenclature).
As someone who has only seen a couple of burlesque shows, I certainly felt like Banbury stood out from anything else I’d seen. Her performances felt more real and intimate, as if she were making telegraphically poignant connections with the audience. If I were to talk about this analytically, without flowery bombastic bs pseudo-artistes often exercise, I’d say she puts on quite a multitude of sultry facial expressions.
This reminded me of something I glanced over once in one of my psychology textbooks of an illustrated page, exhausting possible human facial emotions. From a photography point of view, the better a subject is able to convey emotions via the face, the better the connection between the viewer and the photograph. If I had to pick between an imperfectly exposed/focused picture with a strong facial expression and one that’s technically perfect, but emotionally lacking, I’ll almost always opt for the former. To break the ever raising threshold of emotional blandness, I’m almost exclusively shooting for strong visual emotions now. In fact, to have emotional ups and downs, I am convinced, is the way to live life. Neutral emotional states are simply too unremarkable.
I spoke to Banbury after the show, about what burlesque is, and whether it’s something that requires training and a strict regimen. She says she’s never had any lessons or training, and that she “sort of makes it up as it goes along.” I feel very strongly about getting into something without any training (as it brings a fresh touch to a stale discipline, as well as makes it more accessible by shielding the learner’s anxiety), and I don’t believe in idolizing schools of thought or even instructors for that matter. Good common sense will take you 90% of the way there.
After wiping off, she threw on her after performance attire to go outside where fans await, for a hand rolled cigarette.