BOTI REVIEWS: The Burlesque Imposter

Fanny Dent is a storyteller, who just happens to take her clothes off.

Alexandra Shaw, performing as Dent, puts on a one-woman show at Caravanserai Brighton in the cosy Junk Poets tent.  A simple stage set-up – a chair, a desk and a hat stand. Or so it seems. With just a few clever costume changes and one brilliantly expressive face, Dent takes the audience down a rabbit hole and out the other side into Wonderland.   

Her story is about the history of burlesque and not fitting the mould. Dent tells how burlesque has been taken over by “those sexy people” and away from the original artform of satire, the word ‘burlesque’ coming from the Italian burla – a mockery. We see her at her first burlesque lesson, nervously circling the room feeling self-conscious and awkward. She tries to find her groove but can’t seem to squeeze herself into any one of the three categories of burlesque (classic, cheesecake and gothic/gore). She eventually settles on her own brand of geek burlesque, winning a national competition with her home-grown routine.  

The show is filled with comedy and chaos, as we see burlesque stripped of its prescription-issued glamour. Layers upon layers of M&S knickers are slung to the floor, in an act of rebellious defiance. Two fingers are stuck up to the rule-makers, a stifling boss and the audience member who misses the point entirely by providing her with reassurance of her hotness when she wants to be known for her art. “I’ll take it, but it’s not the point”, she retorts.  

The highlight of the show is her dance with a coat stand, by which point the narrative has arrived at a place where Dent/Shaw can really showcase her talent. The cheek-to-cheek with the coat stand manages to be equal parts refined, raunchy and downright hilarious. Coming a close second is a boxing-match-cum-rumba with a giant tampon, Dent stripped down to her pasties and a pair of superhero-style sequin knickers. Quintessential Fringe.    

Shaw is also performing this weekend (Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st May at 8.30pm) at Junk Poets at Caravanserai – catch her if you can!

By Catie Haywood

Photo credit: Mendoza