Proud Brighton – 50 Shades of Cabaret.
(Seduction, stripping, stroking, curves, collars and cuffs)
I’d received an email from the management of Proud, laying down ‘The Rules’ of the evening… I’ve been to burlesque shows before, once right here at the Hanbury Ballroom in Brighton before the new management, once on my best friend’s hen night in Bath, but neither of them had ‘Rules’.
Immediately I was sitting up and taking in every word. It read;
I AGREE TO AND UNDERSTAND THE FOLLOWING: During the evening, guests may be subject to any or all of the following:
Mild restraint (handcuffs, shackles or blindfolds) / mild physical contact and ‘punishments’ from your waiter or waitress (light spanking, drink challenges, dares etc.). ‘Punishments’ may be incurred for any reason deemed appropriate by staff. Witnessing performances of a mildly sexual/fetish themed nature. You will be required to adhere to ‘the rules’ of your table. Please note all of the above is with good intent and in no-way forces guests to participate. Guests are free to leave at any time. Guests will also be provided with a Safety word should you feel uncomfortable with your situation. At the beginning of the evening guests will be able to blow out their candle should they not wish to get involved in the show but want to watch only.
YOU MUST NOT TOUCH YOUR WAITER/WAITRESS AT ANY TIME.
Dress code is strictly dress to impress, and dress up is strongly encouraged – think fetish inspired/ burlesque/ vintage/ PVC/ gothic. No casual street wear will be permitted. Toilet or cigarette breaks must be requested from a member of staff, who will grant you permission. Taking longer than the allocated time may result in a ‘punishment’ from your waiter/waitress.
‘Oh god…’ was my initial reaction. Punishment? Restraint? I’m not really a fan of public humiliation – mild or otherwise, and I immediately regretted my decision to book. I regretted it for about 13 seconds. After that it was pure excitement. I called my sister, who I was going with, and told her to dig out her PVC hotpants from the shed, and we both spent the rest of the afternoon wondering what on earth we should expect!
We got suitably dressed up (although not, I must say, in anything fetish themed – the only straps I wore were those on my comfy M&S bra) and we went inside. It was cool and dark inside, compared to the bright sunny streets with the sunlight glinting off the sea. The lighting was moody and dim, with red lamps and candles on every table. We were shown to our table (right by the stage) by a hot young waitress with long blonde hair falling down her laced up corseted back, and wearing tiny frilly knickers over her black fishnets. Brilliant. She went through The Rules again, telling us that should we wish to use the toilet or go for a cigarette break, we MUST ask permission or we WILL be punished. She glanced menacingly at the stage in front of us.
There was a wheel with hand holds and ankle straps on it, a stool and a series of dangerous looking whips. I suddenly needed the toilet but was absolutely terrified of asking. She smiled, pointed to the candle and told us that should we wish at any time to become ‘normal’ customers (those who can just eat and enjoy the show in peace, without fear of being called upon to do anything) we were to simply blow the candle out. Our safety word was whispered, Red, and then she disappeared in a flourish to get our drinks.
We were all giggly and nervous, but enjoying it already. Looking around we could see other guests had made a lot more (or less) effort than us; one lady with a dog collar and PCV boots, another very sedate looking group of Doctors (we found out later) with their shirts and ties on, and loads of couples all looking much like us; nervous and apprehensive.
Then came our starters, we had pre-ordered the week before and I had forgotten what was coming. Our waitress explained that she expected clean plates, ‘Every bit of food MUST be eaten, or you will be punished’. We nodded like good girls.
We had Magret Duck Salad, served with warm orange and beetroot, it was delicious and light, the duck perfectly cooked and simply seasoned. There was also a Puy Lentil Galette which was spicy and firm – they both went very well as sharing dishes. Also, we had to make sure we finished them (we did of course).
Before our main courses arrived the lady with the dog collar on had to be punished for something (I think she had slunk off for a cigarette without asking), she was led to the stage by her waitress and after being strapped to the wheel, she was soundly whipped 10 times to the delight of all of us. We were starting to warm up a bit, it was the Rioja I think.
Then came the main courses; Peppered Pork Tenderloin and Marinated Chicken Breast. The pork was moist and tender, served with mushrooms and vegetables. I cleaned up. The Chicken was served with fennel tomato salsa and rice, which was also delicious. Luckily Hannah cleaned her plate too.
Then entered our host for the evening, Dolly Rocket. She was larger than life in every way, a towering, voluptuous beauty with a warmth and humour that immediately set us all at ease. Dolly was perfect; hilarious, witty, quick and warm, not to mention an incredible singer. She introduced our first act, Lucy, who was gorgeous, while we started eating our seductive and sensual desserts…
The Roasted Rhubarb with smooth panacotta was tangy and delicious, the edible flower a really apt and sensual addition. Hannah had a Bitter Chocolate and Strawberry delight, with dark smooth bitter chocolate and fresh sweet strawberries nestling between wafers. They were perfect, and exactly what you want to be eating when you’re watching a sexy curvaceous woman stripping down to a series of what can only be described as straps. It was just brilliant. The atmosphere was steaming hot and yet hilarious, a really brilliant night out.
The next act was Miss Bruise Violet, who was really talented – a fire eater, hoola hooper, stripper, dancer – she brought her energy and personality to her acts, we were laughing and WOW-ing and rocking and dancing along with her. Next was Ayesha H, whose sultry cigar smoking reached an unusual and jaw-dropping crescendo (some things are best left to the imagination) and left us all panting and incredulous.
It was break time, and we laughed and drank a bit more wine and mulled over the evening so far. The nervous anticipation of earlier on in the evening had given way to excitement and general sensual enjoyment! We had eaten well and now we were being given nourishment for the rest of our senses – everyone else in the audience was having as much of a great time as us (some were having a much better time – I hope they’d booked a room nearby)
The second act was just as enjoyable as the first, Dolly had us in stitches, singing along with her and laughing at the poor Doctor who lost his tie down her enormous cleavage. Then the heady mix of the delicious Lucy in her feathers and sultry eyes, Bruise Violet who cleverly and hilariously combined removing a sparkly police uniform with fire eating, and then the shocking and sexy Ayesha H who once again had us (well, me actually) screaming and laughing in a fit of uncontrollable hysterics. It was nervous laughter – how can she do that?!
It ended in a bang of Dolly singing Valerie by the Zutons, and us all singing with her, then, smiling and satisfied, we went outside for some fresh air. We had a lovely chat with Dolly Rocket who was smoking a fag. ‘It’s not a Fetish night’, she said. And it’s not. What it is, is a heady mix of burlesque, dancing, singing, sauciness and flirtation – its sights and sounds and smells and a whole lot of fun.
I demand you go as soon as possible.