When myself and Blau embarked on a Stag and Dagger adventure back in May, we were a little giddy when we stumbled upon The Thrill Billies Burlesque group. This group of ladies Violet Empire, Ottolie Divine, Lady Libertine, Cinzia Dubonnet and Ms Biouxsie Rouge, put on a very special performance and we just had to catch up for a little chat to find out more.
So tell me a little about how you guys got started?
LADY LIBERTINE: Ah, I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of making your acquaintance? My name…is Lady Libertine, a loyal lunatic, subject to The Thrill Billies & to the mistress of the function room, the beauteous Miss Violet Empire, whom I met over 3 years ago one painstakingly warm Summer’s eve…. Talk of Miss Empire starting Burlesque classes locally, cropped up in conversation with her over a few tipples of Gin…& Guinness, in which I informed another friend of mine whom was with me at the time, & who has now become the bewitching Cinzia Dubonnet of The Thrill Billies. Classes started but a month later in which many a keen soul rolled on up to see just what all the fuss was about! Violet taught us all the ropes of Burlesque, not just taking off stockings & strangling an innocent by passer with them, but also the history. Fifteen became ten, ten became eight & soon eight became the true Thrill Billies. We debuted in July 2009 at The Railway in Tulse Hill.
What influences your act and inspires you?
MS BIOUXSIE ROUGE: I'm a very comical person so I think that comes through on stage but that’s true for all of us. We try not to take ourselves too seriously; there's nothing worse than someone trying too hard to be sexy. I believe inspiration comes from the strangest places and the strange situations I find myself in which reflect in my performance.
Tell me a little about your onstage persona. Are you a bit like Sasha Fierce, only for on stage, or are you a bit Lady Gaga?
CINZIA DUBONNET: My onstage persona has formed quite naturally incorporating different parts of my personality. But it’s enhanced them rather than forming a split personality! I’m playful and fun but will occasionally need to be spanked!
LADY LIBERTINE: Lady Libertine was born in 1890 Paris, France. She moved to London at 10 years old with her parents & at 15 found the love of her life whom she could only meet in secret. They later ran away together & found an old & disused mansion on the top of a hill.She earned a living from running her own Lunatic Asylum & may have been wealthy but that was nothing compared to loneliness that she felt, night after night…Until she stumbled across Violet Empire, one absinthe induced evening…
A Lady? Yes, & as for Gaga? Well, I do have a cog or ten loose upstairs. Lest you’ve forgotten, I do run a Lunatic Asylum & have incidentally turned a little (ridiculously) loony myself…I’m afraid that I may be a little too fierce for Sasha Fierce as I do perform in a straitjacket onstage & have a knack for getting out of it at an alarming pace, but, this is Lady Libertine that we’re speaking of. Yet, with The Thrill Billies, our forces combine to create pieces so grandiose, flamboyant, tasteful &, need I remind you, expensive, that those leeching on us will be left helpless, breathless & on the edge of their unpaid for stools. Fierceness doesn’t even begin to cover what The Thrill Billies create once they’ve graced the stage with their undoubtedly infamous presence. Experiencing our unique troupe is more intense than playing with fire, unless you’ve become accustomed to that way of living…I’ve been Lady Libertine & you’ve been most irritating, I bid you good evening…
MS BIOUXSIE ROUGE: Ms Biouxsie Rouge is easily recognised with a bursting flower perched on her hair and iconic dimples indenting her cheeks; Life and soul of the party. To sum her up; Cigarette smiles and Whiskey breath kisses.
OTTOLIE DIVINE: Ottolie Divine is ‘sleek and vicious’. She’s selfish, takes what she wants, but likes to toy with her victim in order to get it. You may have guessed she’s fairly sadistic, most of the acts she appears in are pretty morbid, but she has a sweet side that you mustn’t be led astray by.
There are definitely parts of my onstage personality that are my real character traits, but wildly exaggerated and camped up. There are other traits that appear when I’m onstage that seem to have come from nowhere!
VIOLET EMPIRE: Violet Empire is a strange creature, she started life as a proud, strong and somewhat meddling woman. She felt that others were simply put on the earth to entertain her, this is still true to some extent but she has grown into a more caring and motherly type. This probably has something to do with her role as madame of the group. She truly believes that what she has to say is worth a listen and if someone is seen to be uninterested she makes it her duty to involve them and find a common ground.
Violet is very much like me, just more eloquent, elegant and funnier. She taught me how to dance and see myself as a sexual being, to appreciate myself on a more sensual and aesthetic level, and i taught her to crave human affection and give it out in return. We are like one another’s alter egos, a little partnership.
What has been your favorite performance so far?
VIOLET EMPIRE: My favorite performance so far would have to be our first, where we will perform again on the 18th of June. It was crazy and all over the place. I had just been in hospital and couldn't do the show so I gave myself the role of compere. I watched the girls perform in front of an audience for the first time and felt an enormous amount of pride for them all and what they had achieved. That first performance set the wheels in motion for everything that was to follow.
OTTOLIE DIVINE: Stag & Dagger was great fun as we were given the royal treatment and had the chance to meet lots of other great acts. I enjoy all our gigs, but another really great one was a collaboration we did with a life drawing class, The Drawing Room, where we modelled various poses in burlesque bits and bobs for a couple of hours before wowing the artists and a few other spectators with our show. It was very intimate, and the artwork that was produced was amazing.