For what is essentially a small fishing town in the North East of Fife, St Andrews has quite the cultural scene, with more balls, fashion shows and events than is appropriate or necessary. One thing we don’t have, however, is a professional Burlesque show.
Enter Hannah Rose- or, to give her her stage name, Brandy Montmartre. A burlesque performer and producer of three years’ experience, Brandy is following the sell-out-success of her Twilight Tease Burlesque Revue in Kirkcaldy by bringing her act to St Andrews next month.
By her own admission, it hasn’t been easy. As will surprise absolutely nobody, snobbery is alive and well in St Andrews, and her show was rejected by several well-known local venues for being “too risqué.” She finally struck a deal with the Hotel Du Vin which, while an unorthodox choice, does provide the benefit of giving audiences a Prosecco reception and a three course dinner before the start of the show.
While some might have been perturbed by this, Brandy seems to relish the challenge of bringing burlesque shows like the Twilight Tease Burlesque Revue to parts of the country that might otherwise not have encountered them. In fact, talking to her, what comes through is a genuine passion for burlesque as an art form. Even her backstory reflects this- she first became interested in Burlesque when her sister showed her a video of a performance by Burlesque star Dita von Teese. This sparked a love of the art form which would change her life. After attending a few performances by The Burlesque Ball (a renowned touring burlesque company) in her native Edinburgh, she was spotted at one of the Ball’s after-show dance party by a producer, and asked if she’d thought about doing burlesque professionally.
Disney-movie worthy origins aside, Brandy’s passion for burlesque also comes through in her advocacy of it as a genuine art form. She says that due to the sexual elements involved in burlesque, it is often mistaken for stripping, but that there are important differences between the two. Burlesque allows its performers complete creative control over their work as they are doing an act as part of a show, while strippers are limited by the fact they are providing a service in a club. Stripping generally involves women performing for male titillation, while burlesque has mixed performers and audiences, and is about more than the sexual gratification of it’s audiences. Strippers often have to give a cut of their wages to the clubs that employ them, while burlesque performers generally keep their earnings. There’s an argument that burlesque is actually profoundly political, a declaration of the freedom to do what you want with your body.
That said, it hasn’t all been seriousness. Brandy also described the funniest moment of her career:
“I was onstage performing my signature act, ‘Fireball’, which features a large, fluffy feather orange, red and yellow boa. As I was performing boa tricks, one of the feathers flew into my mouth and became stuck. It took every shred of willpower I had not to try and get it out. I just had to move the feather right to the back of my mouth with my tongue and keep smiling through the strong urge to spit it out and retch in the middle of my act. My eyes were watering with effort. It wasn’t my finest hour! You should expect the unexpected with burlesque for sure.”
Despite occasional struggles like this, she also encourages young people to get involved as much as they can in burlesque. “Go to shows. Go to classes. Network. At the end of the day you get out what you put in, and if I can make it, anyone can.”
The Burlesque Christmas Cabaret Dinner is on on Saturday the First of December at the Hotel Du Vin. Tickets are available here.