A review by Pauline Flannery for EXTRA! EXTRA!






The Hurly Burly Show


Miss Polly Rae in The Hurly Burly Show


Directed by William Baker

Choreography by Ashley Wallen

Lighting by Nick Whitehouse


Duchess Theatre
2 July – 22 September 2012


80s’ disco-funk for starters - glamour glad-ragged celebrities, supporting piled-wigs, silk-organza, snatch-bags, wraps, stoles and muffs are papped by the paparazzi outside. Though I’m not sure if one punter came in cunning disguise or just forgot his pants…..Inside, and we’re off with Benny Hill’s signature tune, ‘Yakety Sax’, keystone cops’ staging and strobe lighting.

So if we didn’t know how to take things beforehand, we do now - tongue in cheek, with lashings of sauce, showcasing a fandango of Britishness in an ‘all-singing, all-dancing revue’ with contemporary twist. The Hurly Burly Show is a descendant of the burlesque-inspired extravaganzas at The Windmill, when Mrs Henderson first entertained as the bombs fell during WWII. 

Here at The Duchess, Coco du Bois, a mix of Chanel and Blanche, dressed in white fur and see-through, laced, black dress, emcees her way through the show, cart-loaded with double entendres. She introduces the Hurly Burly Girlies as ‘a succulent throng of un-plucked cherries,’ headed by the ‘empress of erotica’ Miss Polly Rae.

Everywoman is on show: Mother Superior, Cat Women, Marie Antoinette and Marilyn Monroe, and all types: dominatrix, innocents and man-eaters. Each performer deals expertly, when called upon, with feathers, tassels, discreetly-patterned triangles and impossible thongs. And there is not an ounce of fat between them. This is a moot point: would the artistry, and there is a good deal of this, be the same if the eight boasted fleshy contours? Burlesque is striptease: the artful reveal is what it’s all about.

Miss Polly Rae’s sultry tones add a frisson to Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ and the Pet Shop Boys’ ‘It’s a Sin.’ Outrageous, over-sized, black hats with gold bags declaring ‘Calvin Climax,’ and other dual slogans set up the classic fan-dance with blue and green ostrich feathers. And Polly Rae is joined by four fluffy pink powder puffs in a real, British, ‘What the Butler Saw’ moment.



Coco du Bois (a vibrant Joanna Woodward) in a French flag and French accent, reminiscent of Fascinating Aidas Dilly Keane opens the second half, which offers a broader theatrical context to the routines. Including the winning ‘I Want to Bake Free,’ amidst a kitsch, pink kitchen, and the Japanese-inspired finale – yes, I really think so – which offers an original, witty take on Under My Umbrella in a feasting farrago of light, colour and spinning parasols….

With so many bits to affix, undo or cheekily cover up, the costumes, together with the quick-changes, are dazzling. The various Madonna, La Gaga, Jackson mash-ups, shot through with green, purple and bordello-red lighting, designed by Nick Whitehouse, all make for an exciting, highly visual show, with slick fast-paced direction by William Baker and witty, sharp choreography by Ashley Wallen.

This girl-power is full of wit and beguilement, largely driven by Polly Rae’s exotic, flame-red hair and svelte good looks. She is the queen of the Burlesque……Mrs Henderson would have approved…..


Duchess Theatre
3-5 Catherine Street,
Box office: 0844 412 4659
Monday – Thursday at 8pm
Friday & Saturday at 6.30pm & 9pm
Tickets: £25 - £49.50*
*Includes £1 restoration levy
Previews 2 - 12 July
All tickets £10 discount






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