Goth(ic) Cabaret: Twenty-First Century Performance Styles and Subcultural Burlesque

Claire Nally*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article addresses the subcultural imagery deployed in the neo-burlesque communities, through the ways UK performers access the costume, iconography and spectacle of goth, gothic and horror. Taking several performances from recent events as case studies (Joe Black, Rosie Lugosi), I maintain that a critical intersection of burlesque and goth(ic) allows for a reconsideration of both genres. I also suggest that the cabaret and burlesque scene complicates ideas of belonging in subculture, despite the popular narrative that subcultures such as goth are overwhelmingly welcoming to minorities.

Given how both goth and gothic are traditionally located in the realm of the unconscious, or the taboo, I also maintain that gender performance is central to any discussion of these artists, with onstage scenes including gender-bending, monstrous beauty, and fetish. I maintain that the use of (fake) blood, on stage piercings, music and costume choice (with especial reference to the films of Tim Burton), suggest a homage to goth(ic) culture, whilst also satirising the practices and iconographies popularly associated with that community. Finally, addressing the post-COVID climate and the precarity of live performance and health/well-being, I address how far the apocalyptic Gothic has influenced the content of neo-burlesque shows.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPunk and Post-Punk
Issue number2
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 23 Apr 2024

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion keywords

  • LGBT+ Equality

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