Warning: May contain nudity (and swearing)

Last night Peter and I saw Maude Davey's show 'My Life in the Nude'.  We've had the pleasure of seeing Maude perform for a number of years as part of Finucane & Smiths 'Glory Box' burlesque show.  It's not burlesque as you might imagine, though.  For the uninitiated, it's artistic, artful, playful and mesmerising, confronting and challenging.  It's smart nudity that tells a story and I adore it.

Maude's show highlighted her long career of getting starkers in front of an audience.  It was a joy to see her most memorable moments from F&S, and find out about her entrance into the world of cabaret and burlesque.  This included a routine called 'I'm not going to show you my cunt'.  Having turned 50 last year, she is considering if it's time to hang up her pasties and feathers.  She discussed her relationship with her body, and for the first time gave the audience permission to take photos.  As she said, every year things get saggier and softer so it's best to have photos now, as it's only going to get worse!

I know very few women who don't have issues with their body, or the lines on their faces or their increasing grey hairs.  We focus so much on the faults we never celebrate the positives.  Maude poetically stated that being young and nude is about beauty, sex, possibility and potential.  Being older and nude is about something else entirely.  Can your body show wisdom, experience, perseverance, longevity, survival?  Does youth make us focus on the body, while age allows us see the person under the skin?

It's a powerful question.  Nudity in this context always seems the curious juxtapose of strength and vulnerability.  Maude often gets told how brave she is - her reply: 'am I so hideous that I shouldn't show myself?'  She thinks that her performances are a statement: she is worthy of our gaze.  And indeed she is, whether it's stripping out of a gorilla suit to Christina Aguilera's Beautiful, being an ageing fur-coat-clad star, fragile and requiring help from the audience to stand before, being transported to the bright lights via a trapeze.  Nude, reborn and free in death, to the soundtrack of Antony & the Johnsons 'Hope there's someone' makes your hairs stand on end. Maude transforms into a horned creature with a bleeding heart, desperate to love and be loved (to Portisehead's beautiful 'Glory Box').  She is a sparkling feathered showgirl and rock god as she slams out the Angels 'Am I ever gonna see your face again' and finally a suited and bearded man with a surprise package for the audience - singing Patti Smith's 'Gloria'.

Each character is engaging, each vignette touching, heartfelt, raucous and inspiring.  We all have complex relationships with our bodies, but how difficult it must be to make a living out of baring it to other human beings.  But unlike porn, modelling, stripping or even traditional burlesque what Maude does is art, and I don't think there's an age limit on that.  Perhaps it's fitting that she finished with a Patti Smith song - another ageing woman with a 'fuck you' attitude.

Maude asks the audience if she was to still do this at 60, 70 or 80 would we still want to watch.  My answer: even if her tits hang past her belly button, and her pubic hair is grey, if she wanted to get her gash out - I'd pay to see her.  Because her body is a vehicle for her performance, her wit and intelligence shine through any sags or wrinkle.  She is captivating, and deserves our gaze.  We love your work Maude - and may you continue to be nude for years to come.

Beautiful (photo by Peter)

Glory Box (photo by Peter)

G.L.O.R.I.A. (photo by Peter)

To celebrate, here's a Maude inspired playlist

Antony & the Johnsons 'Hope there's someone'

Portishead 'Glory Box'

Patti Smith 'GLORIA'


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