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...