Amber Topaz, the inaugural Miss Burlesque UK, brings Edinburgh Fringe a burlesqueless theatrical cabaret experience that is personal, informative, and inclusive. The show is a flurry of musical parody, scientific insight into different aspects of the reproductive system, comedy sketches and anecdotes - and there is much joy to be had in it.
The relationship that Topaz forms with the audience becomes quite powerful by the end.
The opening is a little flustered, as she has to hush a riotous group at the back, she then immediately starts a call-and-respond rally with a range of synonyms for genitalia. The response is a bit flat as she is yet to establish a good rapport with the audience, the tameness continues as she launches into a geeky, unnecessarily bespectacled character offering a detailed scientific explanation of fertilisation. The first few minutes show some potential but feel disjointed as the premise of the show hasn’t been established yet and she hasn’t quite settled in to the swing of things. Nevertheless, the atmosphere certainly picks up as she increasingly wins the room over.
Topaz has a very good, but not quite remarkable, singing voice and performs some enjoyable numbers, including a parody of Wuthering Heights about periods, and Chandelier as a comically overblown boozed-up Irish character. By the time the slightly iffy first third is out the way, The Rude Awakening grows from strength to strength. Topics of discussion include puberty of both genders, masturbation and orgasm. This is not a show for the bashful. Certain segments are very feminine-orientated but never intentionally alienate men, and the male members of the audience will be able to access all the material even if they can’t fully relate to everything. There are some solid gags scattered throughout, and the relationship that Topaz forms with the audience as she feeds off their energy becomes quite powerful by the end.
Highlights include an audience member playing the bongos on her bum and ‘The Womb of Truth’, where she answers sex-related questions written out before the show. There is some ad libbing skill but there's much room for improvement. The end becomes quite personal, as Amber expertly polarises tragedy and comedy, leading strangers to embrace across the room. The Rude Awakening will appeal to a certain type of person, but age and gender should not be factors in determining its suitability for you. Despite a rocky first act, the finale left nobody in doubt that they had shared an experience with both the performer and those who made the decision to join them in the Voodoo Rooms that day. People seeking an informative and personal sex-positive journey with songs, laughs and a sense of community need look no further.