Click here to download the interview.
Well, this particular venture started with a clip in The Sunday Times newspaper on the 2nd of September which friends and family cut out of their respective newspapers and handed to me (knowing that it would be straight up my proverbial alley!). I had already been given a birthday gift to visit my family and school friends up in Johannesburg for the same week as this announcement went to press. An extravaganza directed by William Baker, combining elements of burlesque, cabaret, pop-culture and comedy, would be within my literal reach in less than two months! Via excited Facebook statuses from fellow members of the South African burlesque community expressing shared delight at arranging to see the show, I got in touch with a burly bird based in my home town. Miss-Oh, a London trained alternative burlesque artiste, and I met for dinner the next week to exchange ideas on how to make the best of such a fantastic opportunity to promote burlesque to a South African audience. It’s always so special to talk about one’s passion with kindred spirits – she and I both left Sandton City with a fresh sparkle of imminent possibility.
While Miss Oh connected to Miss Polly over Facebook, I set up a Twitter account and simply ‘tweeted’ the celebrity. To my delight she came back to me saying that she and her Hurly Burly Girlys were also sooo excited for The Hurly Burly stint in South Africa. It is incredible how social networking brings the globe into a totally different mode of communicating – how amazing indeed! So, that’s how you get hold of a contemporary celebrity directly - the audacious take heed! :P
After some liaising with Polly via Twitter and over email, the final Skype date was set. Wow, this was my first interview – well, first that I was not only CONDUCTING but with such a CELEBRATED STAR! No pressure…
I decided that my best approach would be to do as much further background research on Polly and her show as I could (what a fun task it was!) and then to think of questions that I’d like to ask her that would appeal to a newbie to burlesque as well as those of us who have already been bitten vampishly by that sultry violin spider called the burlesque bug. No formulaic question and answer session, just something conversive that would unfurl organically.
It was quite surreal to see this red-headed vintage goddess on the other end of the webcam. She wore her tresses up a demure 40s style bandana and, as expected, her feline eyeliner was immaculate. She commented that I looked like Kate Winslet, hehe. Unfortunately due to some technical glitches we decided to ditch the video in favour of superior audio quality. Through the process of sorting out her microphone settings etcetera, whatever nerves I had just disappeared. I also think knowing that I needn’t think about what my facial expressions may be doing made me less self-conscious (film, I find, often accentuates my already hyperbolic visage contortions to an undesirable effect). Anyway, I got lost in the experience when it was underway. Polly is an absolute hoot! I had so much fun chatting to her I was quite reluctant to wrap the interview up at all! What an accomplished orator she is, and an inspiration to those wishing to embark on a similar path to her journey.
I enjoyed her candour and the genuine way she spoke about her fellow Hurly Burly Girlys which signaled authentic feelings of mutual admiration and a sense of family among the cast members. Polly really knows her stuff, as you’ll hear – we agreed that there’s nothing like a well-informed stripper! In all seriousness, being au fait with burlesque history contextualizes this performance art in the contemporary world, and context gives meaning. We as performance artists continue to celebrate defiance of stereotypes that stigmatize and ‘box’ sexuality and ideas of ‘the body’. Miss Polly Rae is an empowering figure by virtue of enacting upon this knowledge which she holds through her craft.
Thanks again for to Miss Polly Rae for offering her story with all those delectable little ‘tit’bits of advice to which all aspiring starlets need pay heed! Enjoy the podcast lovelies :*