Friday, 10 August 2012

Is that what I do?

Gorgeous bottoms to be expected...

Greetings from Planet Fanny! Yes it's been a good long while since I wrote in this section of my internet space, but rest assured that I have not been sitting idly by picking my nose, or other equally fruitless tasks (for I cannot fit any fruit up my nose). Some of you may have noticed that I've been a little preoccupied recently writing a new blog about my venture into online dating, and so I have been. However, these adventures bring with them new experiences to write about here, and this week was no exception! Last night I took my current squeeze (a gorgeous French man and Burlesque Virgin) to see The Hurly Burly Show, now in it's second season in Soho and currently playing at the Duchess Theatre. 

I've been curious to see this show in particular since first moving to London, having read a very complimentary write up about it in a Sunday supplement a few years ago when it first launched at the Soho Revue. At the time the show was getting some excellent feedback and reviews from critics,  as well as heaping praise on the show's creator and star Miss Polly Rae, a burlesque performer and all round gorgeous creature with an impossibly tiny bottom and a penchant for Agent Provocateur. The article in question did not exactly light my creative self on fire - I felt that the girls performing in the show seemed a little too preoccupied with looking sexy and glamourous, and there was little mentioned about themes and ideas explored in the show, or the stories they would be telling onstage (something I always look out for in a 4 minute solo act, let alone a 2 hour revue).

Needless to say I was reserving judgement when I first walked into the theatre, whilst still being fully prepared to have a fun time, and whoop and holler my heart out (as this is the only way to make nice girls take their clothes off!) Within seconds of the lights going down I was not disappointed, as our compere for the evening Coco Dubois introduced all the Burly Virgins in the room to the art of cheering at a strip show. She then introduced us to the lovely ladies performing for us, all of whom had suitably interesting, vintage and/or vulgar names (my personal favourite was Jenny Talia...) before announcing the star of the show, Miss Polly Rae, who treated us to a song and strip(ish) number about what Burlesque is all about.

This proved to be something of a sticking point for me, as the whole number seemed to imply that Burlesque is NOT about stripping, but rather about the tease and the tantalising outfits and generally looking and feeling fabulous. Whilst I am the first to pop on my glamour hat and say 'hurrah for diamonds' whilst writhing on a fur rug, this does not mean that I am in denial about the fact that people pay to see me take my clothes off. Because they do, and I'm very comfortable with this fact. (It would be a far sadder day if I took them off for free) One act in and I'm feeling a little bruised by The Hurly Burly Girlies dismissal of stripping as something that less classy, glamourous girls do. But the moment passes, and for the rest of the first act I am genuinely impressed and entertained by the onstage antics, and the sheer physical prowess of some of the performers. The cast is made up of a combination of dancers, singers and real life burlesque dancers, and the production makes the most of this with well constructed set pieces that showcase each of the girls forte perfectly. One of my favourite moments of the night was watching an excellent dance duet that would not look out of place on the stage at Sadlers Wells, performed by two of the non-burlesque performers, and proving that burlesque is an umbrella term for a wide variety of performance styles.

The second act opened with a terribly 'Allo Allo Marie Antoinette skit, which I sensed l'homme francais did not fully appreciate, followed swiftly by more gorgeous group routines (including a wonderful Crazy Horse homage to Goldfrapp's Strict Machine) and Peggy de Lune treating us to her Burlesque Games award winning act 'Fly Me To Chicago'. Finally Miss Polly Rae closed the show with an ensemble piece set in a Geisha House, including some fireplay and pointe work that once again fully showcased the range of abilities onstage beautifully. By the end of the show I had a great big smile on my face, as did my now frisky French companion! We cheered along with the rest of the house as the girls took their final bows wearing nothing but their diamante encrusted thongs and tassels (incidentally, the only twirling of the night) before departing for Vietnamese food and a lengthy discussion of my own costume collection...

Miss Polly Rae and the Hurly Burly Girlies

As I sat down today to write this article I had to think very carefully about what I really thought about the show, and how I would share this opinion in such a public forum. Because although I thoroughly enjoyed my evening at the Hurly Burly Show, I'm not certain how much I enjoy the idea of it. Before moving to London the only Burlesque dancers I had watched onstage, and then met backstage, were all thoroughly normal, gorgeous, rude, smutty minded wonderful women with hearts of gold and mouths like a sewer, which enabled me to let my inner hussy run free relatively early into my burlesque career. I'm not certain that, had my first experience of live burlesque been The Hurly Burly Show, that I would have felt that either my bottom or I belonged in the Burlesque world.

As glamourous and gorgeous (and often downright filthy) The Hurly Burly Show is, I did not leave feeling that I had just seen women doing what I do. And it's not because I'm not glamourous, or gorgeous (or downright filthy), but because the entire show was just a little too polished for my liking. As a trained theatre practitioner I have spent many years encouraging my students to rehearse, practice, improve and develop as performers as much as possible, and The Hurly Burly Show is certainly a well rehearsed and beautifully staged piece of theatre. However, it felt like in the process of nailing the song and dance numbers, a little of the spontaneity (and dare I say it, fun?) of the whole shebang had been sacrificed. Whilst I take my hat off to all the performers for their amazing talent and commitment to the show, I would happily have sacrificed some of the polish for more of the dirt (one memorable exception being when Peggy de Lune screeched at the audience that she wouldn't take another item off until they f***ing cheered!) And as much as I enjoy seeing a nearly nude woman with thighs like a baby giraffe writhe around on a bed whilst being felt up by floating be-gloved hands, I realised that I was really missing an occasional wobbly bottom, or big breasted woman to confirm that burlesque is about shaking what your mama gave you, regardless of how big it is!

The Hurly Burly Show is a really good piece of theatre, and the inclusion of bona fida Burlesque performers Coco Dubois and Peggy de Lune ensures that the show not only looks but occasionally feels like a down and dirty Burlesque revue of days gone by! The ensemble do a fantastic job with their group and solo pieces, and Miss Polly Rae is the epitome of classic Burlesque glamour, a fitting star for any Burlesque Virgins wanting to know what the fuss is about Burlesque. I would have loved to see more mention given to Coco Dubois, who is a fantastic compere and really held the show together, as despite being billed as an ensemble piece most of the press and promo for the show is about Miss Polly Rae, with little emphasis on the rest of the rather fabulous cast! This aside, it really is a good night out, and the theatre staff very kindly moved us into more expensive seats in the stalls when we arrived as they were going spare. This lovely gesture really helped to boost the feeling that we were all in it together, something that is always apparent at more intimate settings but can often be lost when faced with a larger crowd.

I give The Hurly Burly Show a whopping 4 stars out of 5, under the proviso that, should the opportunity arise, they let some big arsed women audition for the next cast! I can just see it now...

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Ooooh, networking!

I Tweet, therefore I am.
Since I last ventured into blogland they've only gone and changed the bloomin' layout! It's been an interesting couple of days internet-wise, as I've had to sharpen my networking claws and get stuck into the messy and often brutal world of social networking for business! My new job involves me using the internet (and my general wiles) to make people come and drink in my lovely bar, where I also serve fabulous cocktails for a reasonable rate MINUS service charge. Resultantly, I have had to learn how to use twitter this week. It confuses me greatly at the moment, because it feels a little too much like standing on a box and letting every thought I have spill out into a megaphone to a disinterested crowd. Which is less than comforting for me, a serious artist (stop laughing), and so initially I was a bit sceptical. However, I have begun to think that maybe twitter is an ideal solution to my biggest problem of all - my limited blogspot audience (both of you). Within 3 hours of being on bloody twitter I had double that, and that's without sending out pity pleas to my facebook friends who are now so cool that they only facebook through their twitter. And so I'm tweeting. I think. I still can't work out how to read the news feed.

In other news, I joined a dating website this week. I've resisted the urge for a good long while because I'm not ready to commit to owning lots of cats, but so far this particular website seems slightly less...depressing. First of all, it's endorsed by Sarah Beeny, a bona fide C-list celebrity (that's a compliment, she's right up there with Sian off BBC Breakfast) and second of all, I appear to be fairly popular so far...which is a little concerning when you consider the fact that I have had limited (read: zero) interest since moving to London from eligible men (though plenty of teenagers and sociopaths have had a go). The catch with this website is pretty interesting - your friend writes a testimonial for you that others should use to find out more about you. Which is really nice actually. So as of tomorrow, I'm going to stop checking their pictures before reading the blurb. Until then, I'm afraid I shall mainly be shallow. I should probably go over the terms and conditions again...

Paper Dress Test Run
I've had a couple of gigs recently with my favourite men The Boom Boom Booms, most recently at Bloomsbury Bowling Alley. I always like to take something new along for the boys, as they are a lot of fun and regular bookers (in fact in the past 6 months I think they've made up half of my work - I really need an agent!) and this month was no exception. The Booms have recently launched a rockabilly/rock n' roll night called 'Aliens Ate My Cadillac', and I have performed twice at this night, to mixed reactions. As the first night was at Paper Dress Vintage Boutique in Shoreditch, I made a Paper Dress and matching accessories for the occasion. I discovered a 5 minute method for constructing a dress that worked impossibly well, as well as looking amazing! Unfortunately when I arrived for the gig I realised I had not packed any of the 10 newspapers I had stockpiled at my flat. Thankfully one of the musicians was kind enough to go on a news hunt for me, and the dress was successfully constructed, before being callously destroyed 5 minutes later.

So generally it's been an interesting couple of weeks, and I have a few new routines in the pipeline (more 80's rock, I know you all love it so) to keep me busy! Stay tuned, next week I aim to learn how to trend...

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The Procrastination Monster

After several weeks absence I have finally made it back to the blog! The past month and a half have been rather difficult with my 'day' job, ending with me leaving the company entirely last week. I'm pleased to announce that being paid minimum wage to make cocktails in a not entirely fancy bar is far more enjoyable than having a grown-ups job, and I think for the immediate future I'm going to be focusing on Fanny a bit more.

The danger of freelancing for me is that I'm not much of an independent learner. Since the days of revising for my GCSEs (which I never really committed to, there was a lot of last minute cramming) I have know that the best way for me to learn and work is in a supervised room. It's not that I don't have a good work ethic, and more that I have an excellent procrastination ethic. This often leads to sitting, staring and occasionally (oh who am I kidding, ALWAYS) leads to baking cakes for no one in particular. I have tried to curb the impulse over the years, and while at university I made a real effort to finish my work a few days ahead of schedule so that I never had to endure the panic of writing a portfolio in a day (May 20th 2008 - the longest day of my life) but now that I have left academia I can feel the procrastination monster creeping back in to m head. 

The procrastination monster is a very bad thing. He tells me to watch box sets, and stare out of the window. Sometimes he lets me write my blog, but only if I promise to read Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan-fic afterwards. I struggle against his mighty will, but to no avail. He always wins this epic battle, normally because I get easily distracted by shiny things. But I have a cunning plan. As I am now a minimum wage schlub with no social life or ready cash, I aim to spend the next couple of months drastically improving my overall self, starting with all the costumes in my wardrobe that no longer fit because of my other mortal enemy, the Stress-Eating Monster. Today consisted mainly of hula-hooping to loud pop music, followed by an attempt at a sit up. Tomorrow I plan to introduce the lunge. I'm excited.

In addition to this half-hearted attempt at fitness I will also be spending a lot more time here, in order to start working more effectively on my research, practise and general life enjoyment. I understand this also means a lot of fan-fic. It's a risk I'm willing to take.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Blockages and other extraneous matter

It's been a while...

I discovered a long while ago that I am at my most creative when overworked and overwrought. In short, I'm generally a lot more entertaining when I'm thoroughly miserable! This is NOT a particularly nice way to be, and after completing a Masters dissertation using this rather rubbish technique, I have decided that enough is enough! 

About 30 seconds before the Fanny face-plant...
I'm really enjoying 2012 so far for many reasons, one of which being that I get to spend a lot of my work time teaching and enabling young people, whether it be debating current events, teaching basic Adobe suite or lecturing on the importance of contraception and safe sex. I feel that for the most part I'm doing all of this fairly well (and I certainly have a lot of experience in some subject areas...) but I have most definitely been neglecting my own creative side recently.

My last performance was New Years Eve with the lovely Annabel and my old group, and I had a fantastic night. I also fell over. Thankfully I have lovely friends who did not take pictures of this no doubt amusing moment, which is just as well because the scar I got from landing on a chunk of glass more than suffices as a memento!

I have some exciting plans for new routines for 2012, and after several years of embracing the extra wacky, I'm starting to think about bringing some simplicity and melancholy to my repertoire. I love sad movies and emotive songs, but have always felt very intimidated by the prospect of going onstage and people NOT laughing. I have always managed to raise a smile so far in my artistic development, so over the next few months I have to start engaging with the serious Fanny, starting with an exploration of Fleetwood Mac's classic 'Never Going Back'. Watch this space...

I've been thinking a lot about how I can get my mojo back, art-wise. It seems silly to think that I work int he same building as a gallery and a plethora of other artists, but I don;t engage with them! So my challenge for the next month is a simple one - I will start to find art in new and interesting places. I  planned to start this today, after discovering the list of free things to do in London and picking something off the list - 18th Century Day at the Wallace Collection, where you can make Commedia Dell'Arte puppets, learn how to style your hair like an 18th Century lady, or have a natter with Marie Antoinette whilst listening to a violin concert.

However, it rained, so I sat in and watched Death Becomes Her.

I'll definitely leave the house tomorrow....

The Wallace Collection
10am - 5pm ~ 7 days a week ~ Free Entry

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Oh the weather outside is weather...

It's December 3rd and I'm panicking about my Christmas shopping. Due to the extremely long hours I work during the week I only have my weekends to get all the important stuff done, like eating, sleeping, sewing feather to interesting parts of my body, and buying presents for other people.

Yesterday was fairly productive (I certainly ate quite a lot), and so when I woke up this morning it took a while to register that I had to get up and do things today! It's a bizarre list of tasks too, including helping my flatmate return items she was brainwashed into buying in House of Fraser (definitely a two person job, remember the episode of Friends when Chandler tries to quit the gym?)

I also at some point today have to write a reference for one of my staff, buy some fan staves and re-assemble my feather fans, iron all my clothes (the first time I have willingly picked up an iron in four years), make enough soup to last me a week, buy cereal and light bulbs, wrap all the Christmas presents I've bought so far, make Christmas cards, write Christmas cards, and hang the new shower curtain.

I feel like someones mother, except the only life I'm organising is my own! There must be an easier way than this...

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Something for the Weekend

It's a cold and misty morning in London town, and I'm making the most of my favourite Christmas jumper and bed socks, by sitting in bed with carrot cake watching films, reading trashy magazines and generally enjoying my day off!

My first outing with AM Preacher -
can you guess where the riding crop is?

The gig with The Boom Boom Booms was a fantastic night -  a small but devoted crowd ensured I felt the love from all sides (and in particular the young man whose lap I sat on to remove a troublesome stocking), and the band played he most amazing set, with influences from 50's and 60's rock and roll, classic rockabilly, and my personal favourite - Rebel Yell by Billy Idol.

I first danced to this song with the band AM Preacher (who share Lars, their enigmatic front man, with the Booms) about 3 months ago, and completely feel in love with the decadence of the 80's rock movement. Billy Idol in particular appeals to me as an artist because his voice is so full of raw, unadulterated passion (not too mention incredible sexual magnetism!) Listening to any man screech the lyrics of this song is enough to get me swinging off a chair, or chasing someone around the room with my riding crop - a permanent feature of the act regardless of where I am!

Wearing more than normal for the end of a routine!

Speaking of venue, the pub hosting the gig was a gorgeous little pub in Islington call the Queen Boadicea. With dark wood panelling on the walls, tasteful decor and low lighting it was one of the cosiest, warmest gigs I've ever played, and the owner of the pub even vacated his bedroom for my fellow dancer Sophia Disgrace and I for the night, so we could enjoy our offstage moments lounging on a bed eating bar snacks and swapping accidental nudity stories. In other words, a perfect evening!

However, my absolute favourite moment of the night had nothing to do with me or my acts (fabulous though they were!) No, I have to confess that the final act of the night by Sophia Disgrace totally trumped me, and rightly so, for Miss Disgrace performs an axel-grinder routine wearing nothing but silver hotpants and electrical tape. Imagine if you will the delight of the audience when she whips out her safety goggles, leans back and sends sparks flying from her crotch to the corners of the room, only to discover Lars has decided to join in by playing in the direct line of fire! Fan-bloody-tastic!

Lars getting involved with a real Fire Crotch!

After this display of fire-crotch goodness we retired, changed and went on our way, bumping into some of the audience members on the tube on the way home. Though a little tiddly and very sleepy they were most complimentary about all the acts, and wished us every success in future crotch related endeavours, which just goes to show that you can meet nice people on the tube after all (provided they've already seen you in your underwear!)

In comparison to this I though Friday night would be tame in comparison - how wrong I was! My best friend H is a drama teacher for a school in SW London, and called me up after work yesterday (when I was indulging in some wine, gossip and complaining with a colleague) to invite me to see The Woman in Black with some of her Y11 students. Well, what's a luvvie to do? I finished my (second) wine, grabbed my files and strolled along to the theatre to see what I had been reliably informed was the scariest play I will ever see. I don't know if this is true or not because I spent most of the play hiding behind the tall man seated in front of me, so bloody scared was I! Not only was the play itself remarkably staged, but the scares were so genuinely terrifying that at one point I was almost crying with terror (no doubt helped along by the screeching girls behind me who kept saying 'Miss I am soooo scared right now, I can't even watch innit!)

Thankfully I was so tired when I got in I didn't have enough energy to have nightmares, so hopefully this truly terrifying experience will not come back to haunt me...though I can't imagine I'll be happy to hear a rocking chair for a while!  And on that note, I'm going to get up, have a long shower (in a brightly lit room) and enjoy what is shaping up to be a really lovely weekend!

The Woman in Black, Fortune Theatre, Russell Street, WC2, London.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Under Pressure

This is not where I work

It's been a hectic couple of weeks for me since I last wrote about my impending Halloween show. Immediately after returning from the South West I accepted a new job working with young apprentices studying for their Level 2 NVQ qualifications. The role is an odd combination of teacher, mentor, manager and mum, and every day brings a new challenge, including some terrifying teenagers, sulky senior management and mind-numbing Macs. Oh yes. I, the consummate PC user has been forced into Mac usage against my will. So one month in I'm enjoying most of the days, and the various tantrums, tears and triumphs that accompany any given minute in my office.

Pretending to be a Cello
is one of my many gifts to the
noble art of performance
However, I'm trying to balance this with taking on more freelance offers of gigs and performances, a lot of which involve travel and time (which I have much less of than I did when I blissfully self-employed!) Getting the balance between work, other work, home, fun and anything else I need to do at that particular moment is proving very difficult, something I don't like to admit, because I'm spending every day hammering home the imprtance of effective time management to my staff!

So what to do? I don't want to give anything up, especially not now - I've just finished transporting all my costumes to London, a task that included dismantling my beautiful feather fans and squashing said feathers into an overfull suitcase for a 6 hour bus journey with Benny the welsh Megabus driver, who very much enjoys telling jokes over the bus tannoy system. We've met several times now. It's always a pleasure.

I'm holding off making a decision about the impossible workload, as I believe it's better to be in demand than pathetically available. Yes, the 'wait and see' approach could have some potentially dire consequences (I've agreed to a 12 hour round trip, just so I can dance for the grand total of 10 minutes, because I'm nice like that) but I'm hoping that, somehow, it's all going to turn out well in the end. How? I don't know, it's a mystery!

"The Boom Boom Booms" Burlesqueabilly, with Fanny LaRue and Sophia Disgrace, The Queen Boadicea, Islington, Thursday 24th November.