In the first of an ad hoc series, we’re looking at the best burlesque shows ever, in London, Paris and worldwide…On our list has always been Miss Polly Rae’s Hurly Burly Show which came out of the UK’s neo-burlesque scene and so it’s perfect timing to catch up with the lady herself as her latest show Between The Sheets is currently hitting London’s Underbelly…
How did the Hurly Burly Show come into existence?
I created it in 2006 soon after I did a course with Jo King and the London Academy of Burlesque. I wanted to have a troupe similar to the Pussycat Dolls (the Vegas Lounge troupe not the Pop Group) so I auditioned some friends of friends, sold them my idea and voila the Hurly Burly Girlies were born! We started with a residency in the Soho Revue Bar (formerly the infamous Raymond Revue Bar) that we were offered after a showcase we put on there. It snowballed very quickly, around 2 years in I had the fortune of meeting William Baker who is Kylie Minogue’s right hand man who shared my vision of creating the ‘biggest burlesque show’ the UK had ever seen. We did it, it ran in the West End for 3 seasons and we also did seasons in Australia and South Africa. It was an incredible experience.
What made the Hurly Burly show so magical?
I think it was because nothing like it had ever been done before, not only had burlesque never really made it onto the West End stage, it was also the way we represented it, we had a real modern edge which was, at the time, very unique.
What makes a great burlesque show?
Variety, humour, pizazz, innovation, audience connection and just the right amount of rude.
What lessons have you learned from the Hurly Burly Show that you apply regularly to Between the Sheets?
The choice of venue through the years has been a big learning curve, although it was absolutely incredible to be in the West End if I am honestly speaking a theatre isn’t really the right environment for cabaret which effectively relies on a lack of the 4th wall to be the most impactful.
I also learned that I’m much happier talking and interacting directly with my audience hence why I have become the host of my shows rather than the headliner.
And rhinestones. In Hurly Burly if someone had thrown up, William would have put Swarovski’s on it. ‘Razzle Dazzle em’ as they say, I just spent about a week crystalling a pair of thigh high boots for our Between The Sheets finale number.
What transitions do you have to make when a show moves from an intimate setting to a larger stage?
If we are talking about my show in the cabaret theatre at the Hippodrome (the Soho Burlesque Club) to the 500 seater Paradiso Spiegeltent? The answer is simple. Everything needs to be bigger. The costumes, the lights, the props, the musical production, the amount of people in the cast, the interaction with the crowd etc etc. You can create more of a spectacle with a bigger setting, you have more freedom for creativity which I love. Which do I prefer though? Impossible to answer because I love it both ways 😉
What elevates Between the Sheets to other burlesque shows?
I don’t see Between The Sheets as a ‘burlesque’ show really. It’s inspired by burlesque of course but I like to think of it more as a ‘risqué pop cabaret’. There really isn’t anything else quite like it that I have seen or heard of – the closest equivalents would be Briefs or Blanc De Blanc – so it kind of puts us in a league of our own.
Watch our quick-fire answer to: what is burlesque?