Polly Rae and the Hurly Burly Girls

Gareth Beal

FACTORY THEATRE: The stars of the West End’s Hurly Burly Show are in Australia for the first time, putting on a highly recommended tease.
Polly Rae and the Hurly Burly Girls
There are many ways to skin a cat, as they say. In the context of An Evening with Polly Rae and the Hurly Burly Girlys, however, or burlesque generally, the outcome is not (I shall sidestep the obvious here) a naked moggy. As Miss Rae herself sings in the penultimate act of the show’s first half, striptease is not about the stripping – it’s about the tease.

On this subject, the French intellectual, Roland Barthes, observed, “Feathers, furs and gloves go on pervading the woman with their magical virtue even once removed, and give her something like the enveloping memory of a luxurious shell [… T]he nakedness which follows remains itself unreal, smooth and enclosed like a beautiful slippery object, withdrawn by its very extravagance from human use: this is the underlying significance of the G-string covered with diamonds or sequins which is the very end of striptease. This ultimate triangle, by its pure and geometrical shape, by its hard and shiny material, bars the way to the sexual parts like a sword of purity, […] the (precious) stone being here the irrefutable symbol of the absolute object, that which serves no purpose.”

As a man, biologically redundant ever since they discovered how to make sperm out of bone marrow back in 2007, I feel I can relate. ‘You’ve become art,’ I consoled myself at the time, and the same could be said of An Evening with Polly Rae. Unlike Barthes, I wouldn’t describe this artistry as an ‘alibi’; Miss Rae’s art may not be ‘serious’ – which is to say it’s a lot of fun – but it’s steeped in creativity and imagination. Therein lies its eroticism. Fantasy is, by its very nature, sexy.

And all those lovely boobs and bums don’t hurt, either.

The whole evening is a collection of naughty bits and pieces involving exotic dancing, fire breathing, balloon popping, pop singing and even the odd historical recreation (well, sort of). It’s deliciously campy good fun, and funny, and the entire cast is sublime, not least Miss Rae herself, whose best asset might actually be her (gasp!) charismatic stage presence.

My only reservation, really, is that the show’s mix of the classic and contemporary isn’t always a shapely fit, perhaps wanting for a stronger unifying theme, and while a highlight in his own right, the Amazing Ari, who only appears a couple of times in the show’s second half, seems just a little shoehorned into proceedings – perhaps, as a man, inevitably doomed to some degree of redundancy.

But you probably stopped reading this at the ‘boobs and bums’ line, and honestly I don’t blame you. Best to book now before tickets are sold out. I’m not sure it’s possible to be entirely satisfied by a good tease (which would seem to be a contradiction in terms), but you won’t be disappointed. An Evening with Polly Rae and the Hurly Burly Girlys is a very good tease indeed. Highly recommended.

4 out of 5 stars

An Evening with Polly Rae and the Hurly Burly Girlys
Directed by William Baker
Music direction by Steve Anderson
Vocal arrangement by Terry Ronald
Choreography by Ashley Wallen
Produced by Walt Utz and Jac Bowie

Performed by Miss Polly Rae, Katherine McLaughlin, Fallon Donakey, Sarah Louise Buckle, Katie Ella Hartwicke, Miss Betsy Rose
Special guest performance by Amazing Ari

Factory Theatre, 105 Victoria Road, Marrickville
January 5–15, 2012
Bookings: www.factorytheatre.com.au

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Gareth Beal is a freelance writer, editor and creative writing teacher who has written for a range of online and print publications. He lives on the NSW Central Coast with his wife and two cats.

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