Photo credit: Bodham Cap
In the fickle world of stage, being an underground main-stay can’t be an easy place in the Venn diagram to occupy. Fancy Chance is probably one of the most recognisable performers on the burlesque and variety scenes in London, winning Alternative Miss World in 2009 and London’s Top Tranny in 2010. Yet she's also managed to remain firmly at the helm, collaborating with Dr Carnesky and as part of Live Lates for Penny Woolcock’s Utopia.
You may have seen Fancy Chance hanging by her hair, on stage as part of The Cramps Fetish Night, dragging it up as Prince, Kim Jong II or with her nouveau burlesque troupe BurlyQ. In fact, it’s difficult to know how best to introduce Fancy: with so many acts, practices and performances, ordering them feels irrelevant. It's an alchemy, as Fancy must know only too well. She now presents Flights of Fancy, her debut solo show, in which we’re told to prepare for a globe-trotting, time-travelling mini-spectacle of offbeat comedy, original song and some unexpectedly poignant stop-offs.
Run Riot caught up with Fancy in the departure lounge to find out what's in store from her particular brand of in-flight entertainment…
Run Riot: We’re warned to expect turbulent polemics and poignant stop-offs during Flights of Fancy: Who or what are you taking aim at?
Fancy Chance: Assholes and our better selves. I like to think that everything I do on stage is meant to either make the audience laugh and feel joy or think outside of their particular box; of course ideally both.
The show places importance on sharing a unique story and experience that relates to the politics and the state of the world we inhabit and the world we inhabit is full of assholes and lacks compassion and joy. There are assholes within and assholes with the keys to our future. I hope to address them both and on how we can examine both the asshole within and fight the assholes around us so we can all experience more joy and compassion.
Photo credit: Sin Bozkurt
RR: How do you build a show that incorporates so many parts of performance- do you start with one idea or character you’re inspired to create a show around?
FC: The first version I put together with my collaborator/direct Nathan Evans used a ton of my own material I've built up through the years but we soon realised that our creative relationship and our abilities could put together something new, only inspired by my past performances.
I wanted to sing more so we incorporated that and built on my parody videos to help buy me time for costume changes and present more ideas and characters that adhere to the themes of the live parts. I'm just sorry we couldn't include a hair hang section of the show but I guess we'll have to save that for the next show!
RR: And do you have a preferred type of performance- or does this change from show to show?
FC: I prefer to present good performance no matter where or what it is. I do variety shows for a West End crowd to anarchic parties with naked painted people running around fountains and others in massive circus tents hanging by my hair to small basement cabarets with 20 people. All of them can feel like shit or be absolute magic. I suppose the trick is to find the magic in as much of it as you can.
RR: Your performances are absolutely captivating- when did you first realise you could hold a crowd’s attention in such a way?
FC: That really nice to hear. Thank you. I think the penny dropped sometime in my mid 20's when I realised the trappings of wanting to be "pretty/sexy" presented itself as a fallacy; it gave me the freedom to do whatever I felt I needed or wanted to do and I really got to practice being supremely hideous to outrageously tacky and gaudy on stage without being self-conscious. Beyond that, it was the school of sharing a stage with amazing performers and a variety of audiences that taught me most of what I can do and get away with to captivate onlookers.
Photo credit: Sin Bozkurt
RR: Flights of Fancy delves into some of your personal history- how do decide what an audience gets to know and what stays private?
FC: The only things that stay private are details about the other people in my life and if it would adversely affect them by sharing those things. I feel like the only way I can truly reach an audience is to draw from an authentic place; any thing in my life is fair game.
RR: How did you get to know Nathan Evans?
FC: We had basically been on the same performance circuit for a short while and over time and he invited me to be in some of his productions. The last one we did (besides collaborating for Flights of Fancy) was I Love You But We Only Have 14 Minutes to Save the Earth with David Hoyle and Timberlina. That one really solidified my ability and need to do a one-woman show and showed me how strong of a creative relationship Nathan and I have and my confidence in him to play such an intimate role in directing and working with me.
RR: What does your practice look like when you’re preparing for a solo show?
FC: Nathan and I spent a lot of time preparing the material and the themes we wanted to address and then it was a matter of rehearsing and trying things out to see if they worked. My front room and brain can look like a hurricane has hit.
RR: What’s new and exciting in London for you right now? Where should our next night out be?
FC: Mr. Teds does a mad quiz at King Charles the First in Kings Cross. It's a show, it's a quiz, it's interactive, it's drag, it's beautiful anarchy.
RR: You’ve said before that there aren’t enough funny ladies around- who are some others that get your belly laugh?
FC: I like belly laughs and tears. I would say Amy Schumer, Amy Sedaris, Sarah Silverman, Candy Gigi and Betty Grumble.
RR: What’s one question Flights of Fancy looks to answer?
FC: Does communicating our experiences make us more compassionate? Fuck man, I'm being so serious!
Fancy Chance: Flights of Fancy lands at Soho Theatre on Tuesday 25th April to Saturday 29th April from 7.30pm, find out more here. Visit Fancy Chance’s website here, follow her on Twitter at @fancy_chance and Instagram at @fancychances.