Firstly I should probably apologise for not updating this more frequently (to whom I am apologising I am unsure as I very much doubt a single person reads this drivel!) but I did start a blog then immediately neglect it which I suppose is quite naughty!
Anyway - to remedy this, this evenings meanderings are to do with ambition, creative integrity and subsequently professionalism.
I have some pretty serious concerns about what is happening to the cabaret/variety industry. As some people might be aware I am a relatively established cabaret performer; I have been singing, burlesquing and generally acting the fool for entertainment purposes for a number of years now and without tooting my own horn I think I am pretty good at what I do. In saying that; I didn't get to this more than capable stage in my career without time, effort and a hell of a lot of work. I didn't wake up one morning and think "Hmm, I'm pretty bored of my average 9 to 5, I think I'll strike out as an actor/singer/comedian/dancer* (* delete as applicable)". It's all I've ever done and all I've ever wanted to do; I've been everything from the back end of a pantomime cow to the understudy for the lead in a big-budget musical. I've also spent my entire life working in theatres; I've been a stage manager, a technical monkey, an event manager and bar floozy. Learning absolutely EVERYTHING I can about the industry and how it works.
What concerns me is not really relevant to the more serious industry of "legitimate theatre" as most people understand it; to be a professional actor who is in regular paid work you need an agent, you need connections and more often than not you need real training (that and a shit load of luck). These factors weed out deluded amateurs and prevent them from declaring themselves professional actors.
The cabaret & variety scene - specifically with reference to "burlesque performers" - is a WHOLE other barrel of cockney monkeys. Not only has the resurgence in popularity for this artform spawned a veritable army of mediocre to down-right appalling "performers" who are slapping on the title of "professional burlesque performer" as carelessly as they do a cheap pair of Ann Summers nipple tassels they are also diluting, defragmenting and pretty much destroying the legitimacy of true burlesque as an artform. It really, REALLY concerns me. These people claim to love burlesque but they are directly responsible for no-one taking it seriously and the level of ignorance for what it actually is being displayed is quite frankly shocking.
Not only that but it's seeping into other areas of performance; circus for example! Now don't get me wrong, as a fire-performer who has a lot of very good friends who work within this industry, I am delighted that colleagues and friends are earning a decent crust now more than ever before due to a renewed interest in workshops such as trapeze etc. But if I see one more rank amateur attending a workshop in trapeze/aerial hoop/silks/fire-performance and learning one trick well enough to pass off a less than average routine based around it and then immediately start marketing themselves as a "professional" or "trained" in whatever discipline they've decided to pillage I swear I will go postal!!!
Do these people have any idea how many years of training, work and sheer physical slog there is involved to become even passable as a professional in any of the aforementioned arts? A REAL FUCKING LOT that's how much. I mean good grief - you don't learn to go en pointe after a couple of hours of practise and then march into the Royal Ballet announcing you are now a trained ballet dancer “so give me a job!”
And it's the "frilly pant" brigade (as a performer I admire once called them) who are doing these things. It's the people who once mastered tassel twirling after a few hours in a workshop and promptly got themselves a MySpace and started discussing what their rates should be. Fuck all, that's how much! Seriously!
I cannot stress enough how dangerous all of this is becoming; the pool of decent, legitimate and paid work available to actual skilled and talented performers is diminishing by the day - it's becoming a paddling pool and these "performers" are wading in our paddling pool.
And it doesn't end there - they are now branching out into the world of Event Management, starting up their own little nights and calling themselves promoters. The whole thing is going to implode and quite frankly I think I will be relieved when it does. An artform I once loved, that once excited me is now a sensitive subject that leaves me frustrated and bored.
I feel better now; I think I'll go read one of my Judy Garland books, just to remind me that there was once a time when talent actually meant something.
Angry Lucille, signing off. x