Monday, 28 December 2015

Chapter 120: On Gypsy, Burlesque and The Art of Blogging

"Some people sit on their butts, got the dream, yeah, but not the guts"

A clown remarked recently on the intellectualised eroticism of my writing, which made me laugh. Well, you either got it, or you ain't, right?! And he got it. Burlesque is the raison d'être of this blog, after all. From the Italian "burla", the laugh, here is a space to make fun of life when it all gets too serious, a space to play around, tease out the words, and have some fun in the process. But as any cabaret performer worth their salt will tell you, there's a lot of hard graft behind a façade of frivolity, as I was reminded last night watching Gypsy, the Stephen Sondheim "Shakespeare of Musicals" streamed direct from the Savoy Theatre to BBC4. Gypsy is available on BBC iPlayer (click here) until 26th January. 

The story charts the evolution of the overlooked, mousey Louise into the legendary Gypsy Rose Lee, a burlesque star who could take quarter of an hour to simply strip a glove. The driving force behind her is the indomitable Mama Rose. I cannot do justice to a show that will go down in theatrical history as a thundering tower-house of a production. Imelda Staunton as the award-winning Mama Rose was magnificent, terrifying, fierce, mischievous, hilarious and unrelentingly heartbreaking, Laura Pulver worked pure alchemy in her transformation into Gypsy, and Peter Davison (Kevin Whately in the in the video) was everything I imagined as the touchingly long-suffering Herbie. Eight shows a week, imagine! I heard on the grapevine at the theatre that each week Imelda Staunton had her larynx pulled out in order to cope with the demand on her voice. That's guts for you. 

The show brought home a few important points about blogging for me. Self-evident truths maybe, but worth reiterating, especially when quoting from Gypsy:

1) "You Gotta Have a Gimmick" to succeed, as the worn-out old strippers in the burlesque house lecture Louise. Or as theatre critic Lyn Gardner memorably advised a group of bloggers at a workshop in Winchester: "Find Your Niche". 

2) "If something is worth doing, it's worth doing slowly... very slowly". Write your heart out, but take your time editing, proof-reading, and strip away.

3) Whatever you do, whether it be stripping or blogging, remember it is the way you do it that counts: "Do it with an air, and never admit you're scared."

4) Finally, if you are scared of revealing too much, and looking ridiculous, remember: "Nobody laughs at me! Because I laugh first!"

And that, there, is the heart of the burlesque guide to blogging. Go on, knock yourself out! 

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