Five star smash La Soiree has rolled into London again this Christmas with a twinkling Spiegeltent full of sass, smut, surprise, and sensational skill. One of its brightest, hottest and jaw-droppingly fabulous stars is boylesque acrobat Hamish McCann, and we spoke to him about his iconic, roof-raising pole routine which you can catch in London for the next few weeks…
How was your showstopping pole routine conceived?
I have always enjoyed pole dancing and found myself in and around the company of so many excellent pole dancers for so long that it became embarrassing to me that all ever did was tip. I enlisted their help if only to be the only guy in the class. I eventually got very serious about it as an acrobatic discipline.
To build the act from a set of skills into a performance piece, I wanted to subvert the traditional pole dancing and anchor the act to an idea or a cultural reference. I considered street signs, bus stops, even a fireman pole, but the lamp post, Singing in the Rain theme just clicked.
How much initial training, construction and rehearsal was required to make it show ready, and how much ongoing maintenance is required to keep it so slick and showstopping?
It took about one and a half years from the time I seriously started honing the pole skills to the time it first appeared in the show. I do specific exercises and physio to support the muscles involved with the power moves, but with eight shows per week, most weeks of the year, this ends up being enough performance training.
Do you consider it a boylesque act in terms of the striptease and characterisation?
I get my brestickles out, so yeah, I guess so!
How much of that swagger and sensuality is Hamish, and how much an exaggerated persona? Do you thrive under a spotlight?
Everything is amped up a few notches on that little stage. Off stage I’m just a regular guy swaggering among mortals.
Have there been any particularly amusing or surprising reactions to the act over the years?
I like to choose who I throw my shirt to in the front row and this is always a fun game. During the Gents act in the first half I can usually spot the person most likely to have the best reaction to it. Playing in the round means that a huge part of the audience can see what I see on the faces of the other people in the audience and that is a very magical aspect of the show.
“…as my my act progressed one of them started hitting his friend in the arm frantically and yelling, ‘He’s Zeus! He’s Zeus, mate!’ over and over. I nearly lost it. He got the shirt.”
Specifically, though, this one night some really blokey guys were sitting together in the front row and they weren’t reacting too enthusiastically to anything and I certainly didn’t expect much from them during the pole act. But as my my act progressed one of them started hitting his friend in the arm frantically and yelling, ‘He’s Zeus! He’s Zeus, mate!’ over and over. I nearly lost it. He got the shirt.
I heard an amusing story about your initial attempt to take pole dancing classes in Australia. Can you describe that experience?
It all started in an effort to be a part of everything pole dancing, such a fan I was. I had to prove myself and maybe I experienced some reverse sexism (meaning they were on to me), but all jokes aside, the community was very welcoming to me from the beginning.
I’ve watched you perform this act live perhaps six or seven times over the past few years. Is it still an act you enjoy performing? How do you keep an act like this fresh and challenging for yourself after so many performances? Does the high from the (often hysterical) audience reaction factor in?
Absolutely, The enthusiasm of the audience hands you the motivation you need on a silver platter. Part of being a professional is to give it your best, whether it’s the first run or the 5000th. The skills are still challenging (more so with every passing year).
“La Soirée is really a special gig in the world of circus and cabaret.To be a part of a group who all want to be there and support each other can be all too rare in the industry.”
Can you describe your journey with La Clique/La Soiree and being a part of such an incredible, award winning show?
I’m a lucky dog. I have been in this show nearly exclusively for more than ten years. It is very unusual to have a job as an acrobat in one place for that long. Denis (my English Gents counterpart) and I still do our full length 45min shows at festivals occasionally and we are available for weddings and funerals.
In all seriousness, though, La Soirée is really a special gig in the world of circus and cabaret. To be a part of a group who all want to be there and support each other can be all too rare in the industry. The family feel we cultivate backstage can be seen in subtle but very real ways by the audience and I think that makes the show really stand out.
Snatch up a ticket to the award-winning La Soiree here, running in Leicester Square until January 8th 2017. Find out more about Hamish McCann here.
Quoted in major international newspapers and held in high esteem and affection by the international burlesque community, 21st Century Burlesque Magazine has documented the contemporary burlesque scene since 2007. Founded and edited by Holli-Mae Johnson.