A BRIEF(ish) HISTORY OF THE KITTEN CLUB I started out my burlesque career under a railway arch in Bermondsey in 2005 in the original line up of The Kitten Club as the singer of the then, 6 strong troupe. Burlesque wasn’t a word that people really knew back then – when I saw the audition advertised, I didn’t really know what it meant, but i liked the sound of it, I thought it sounded like something I’d be good at – who knew? Until then, I’d been working as an actress, I must have felt fairly strongly about the burlesque idea as I turned down quite a big acting job at the time to take the risk on something that was a completely unknown quantity…. 9 years later, here we are! Burlesque for me was never really about striptease, The Kitten Club was always based more on comedy and parody than what people consider to be classic burlesque though obviously there were elements of that. I am an absolutely RUBBISH striptease artist – I would always be the one that got stuck in their bra or couldn’t get the stocking off so I have the greatest respect and admiration for those who can do it well. I took over The Kitten club in 2006 when the original Momma Kitten, Kitten Blue moved off to Canada with her Tomcat. I set about putting my own unique stamp on the show and moving the troupe forward in a slightly different direction. I had a strong core of girls – some of whom are now well known on the scene as solo performers including Vicious Delicious, Vixen de Ville and around a year later we were joined by Tempest Rose who still works in the show now as well as running her own company, The House of Burlesque. My first challenge was to find the right compere (Known as the Tomcat in Kitten Lands!) for the show – we tried out a few different ideas but slowly and surely I found myself being stalked by a certain comedy magician…. literally everywhere I went for about 2 weeks, this man would pop up or be on the same bill as me. He was funny – I liked him, so I asked him to MC our 3 night pilot run of the new show at The Hen and Chickens Theatre, he said ‘I thought you’d never ask!’ he did the shows, it was great, and although it was never really discussed whether he would be a permanent fixture but 8 years later, I think it’s safe to say that Christian Lee is with us for the long haul. He was once asked if he would ever leave and his answer was, ‘Not til I’ve slept with all The Kittens…’ to which the person, slightly taken aback replied, Oh, and how many Kittens have you slept with so far?’ Christian answered unashamedly, ‘well, none yet…. but they ALL want me!’ (N.B. Christian now has a lovely partner and two children so thankfully, we are safe!) The show went on from strength to strength. We secured our first residency at a brand new burlesque supper-club which opened in 2006, Volupte where after 4 years, I was brought in-house to manage all the entertainment which was some of the most fun times in cabaret I have ever known! Volupte was home to and started the careers of many of the industry’s finest performers – we worked alongside Polly Rae and The Hurly Burly girls, Kitty Bang Bang, Roxy Velvet, Amber Topaz, Gwendoline Lamour and Vicky Butterfly to name but a few. In 2008, I took the show into the New Players Theatre (now the Charing Cross Theatre) for a Christmas run which was probably, still to this day, one of the scariest things i have ever done. I don’t think I slept for about 3 months worrying about promotion, production and the sheer enormity of the task I’d undertaken on my own. It was a great experience and something that I think has really shaped my career and made me look at the whole process of putting a production together really differently. These days, The Kitten Club mainly works at Madame Jojo’s as a resident Sunday show – we’ve been there for 6 years and it’s one of my favourite places to perform. We all now have our own solo careers now but it’s really nice to come together and do the show every month. My own solo career took a very unexpected turn when I casually snaffled one of Christians magic tricks to perform in the show, ‘The Mystery of the Vanishing Banadana’ which is essentially a voiceover magic trick lesson. He dropped the trick off to me en route to a gig and basically taught me how to do it in 2 minutes out of the boot of his car on the Euston Road. I had no idea that this trick (which I originally just did as a one-off for fun) would become my signature act and pretty much THE ONLY THING ANYONE EVER BOOKS ME FOR! I just had to run with it as it was opening up opportunities for me on the variety circuit, getting me bookings abroad and corporate gigs that I would never have known otherwise. The banana is here to stay! Though trust me, this fame comes at a price, I have had a few instances of ‘ Oi Banana Girl’ being hollered at me in the street which is pretty difficult to explain to anyone else… I have started to take magic a bit more seriously and have reached the dizzying heights of skill with my drink in a shoe trick and am currently working on a card prediction trick, all in a similar comedy magic vein. So thanks for that, Christian (and mind reader Peter Antoniou who is currently mentoring me on the cards – that shit isn’t as easy as it looks, believe me!) So that’s pretty much my burlesque career thus far! I have changed the show quite a bit for 2014, adding in some live music to the mix and trying some new ideas out – 2013 has been a real period of change on the scene. Lots of venues are changing or closing so we all need to keep on top of the game and keep things moving forward. I’m really looking forward to spending some time on the creative side which I haven’t had the opportunity to do for quite a while … so watch this space, Banana Girl has got big plans!