Laurie Hagen is an award-winning actor, dancer, clown, singer-songwriter, cabaret and burlesque firecracker. Originally from Belgium, Laurie trained at the Royal Ballet Institute in Antwerp before moving to London, aged 16, to attend a 3 year Musical Theatre Course at the Arts Educational Schools.
She made her London stage debut in the original West End cast of ‘Beauty and the Beast’, as a plate and a napkin. Laurie then completed a Postgraduate Course in Acting at East 15 Acting School. Her acting credits include: Titanic (ITV), W.E. (Madonna) and Waking The Dead (BBC).In 2007, Laurie took her first burlesque steps as one of Miss Polly Rae’s ‘Hurly Burly Girlys’ at the Soho Revue Bar in London. She has since become one of the U.K.’s most sought after cabaret artists, appearing as a compere and guest performer in variousshows at the Wonderground, Hippodrome Casino, The Box, Leicester Square Theatre, Savoy Hotel, Café de Paris, Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club and the Old Vic Tunnels, amongst many others.
Laurie won Best Burlesque Act at the 2013 London Cabaret Awards and was nominated for Best Compere in 2012 and 2013. She is the proud owner of the Most Innovative Award from the 2013 Las Vegas Burlesque Hall of Fame competition, for her ‘Reverse Striptease’. This propelled her onto the international circuit. She featured in the original cast of ‘Vegas Nocturne’ at the Cosmopolitan Hotel Casino in Las Vegas. Most recently Laurie performed in the European Première of La Soirée’s latest production ‘Club Swizzle’ at the London Roundhouse, after completing several successful seasons across Australia (Perth Festival, Brisbane Festival, Adelaide Festival Centre and the Sydney Opera House). In June 2017 Laurie premièred her first one woman show in London entitled ‘Laurie Hagen Is Under Reconstruction’ and has since performed it to sold out audiences at the Tinnenpot Theatre in her native Ghent.
Laurie is absolutely thrilled to announce that she will be performing at THE iconic cabaret Crazy Horse Paris, starting 28 December until 31 March 2019, as the Maîtresse de Cérémonie of the current show ‘Totally Crazy’!!
1 How did the idea for the act come to you?
The wonderful Miss Polly Rae DeLuca asked me to create a classic burlesque solo with a modern twist for her ‘Between the Sheets’ grand opening at the Hippodrome Casino in 2012. The idea that popped into my head was simple: a reverse strip, literally. It seemed so obvious a concept that I was convinced it had been done before. Thus began the YouTube search us burlesque performers dread, to find out if someone has beaten you to an idea.. To my great surprise, I couldn’t find any such footage. Plenty of reverse stripteases where performers seductively put on layers, but none in actual reverse. First hurdle overcome. I knew it was going to be very challenging, I didn’t realise to what extent.
2 What issues did you have making the act?
Firstly, I was very limited on the costume front. Sliding into stockings and gloves convincingly, I discovered, wasn’t going to happen. But restrictions brought focus and it also gave me my structure. I discovered I could get into: a loose dress, wedges, a coat and a hat.
Being based in my beloved but oh so expensive London, another difficulty was having to rent a small studio to film myself in. I couldn’t create this act in front of the old mirror in our lounge. Again I was limited to how many sessions I could afford, which forced me to be efficient. I did a lot of preparing and homework, most of it in my head and some of it still in the lounge, so I wouldn’t waste valuable studio time.
As for the process itself: I would film myself on my laptop in the studio and flip the footage on IMovie there and then, to see what looked interesting. I eventually managed to edit a structure together at home, which I then had to painstakingly learn. It was a lengthy and often discouraging process.
Thinking ahead, I realised how precise my costume and chair set up would have to be. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to all the incredible stage managers I have been fortunate to work with. Not only do they set me up to succeed my act, they also throw me my hat from off stage at a very specific point in the number. It’s a double act.
Finally, I really didn’t know if I could pull it off. It dawned on me that it may work as video, as opposed to a live performance, which was the task at hand. Thank goodness, all the work and my fascination with strange body movement paid off.
3 What happened when you first started performing the act?
I did a trial run of the act for my contemporary dancer and childhood friend Antoine Vereecken (Random Dance Company). I was so nervous. All my other material (before and after) is comedic, which gives me that feeling I have something to fall back on… Anyway, I started walking backwards and after my first pivot, I stacked it, think banana peel comedy fall. We howled with laughter, the whole thing was caught on film. It broke the ice. I started over and Antoine gave me hugely valuable feedback, mainly to exaggerate certain movements and make it bigger than the footage I tried emulating, so that the audience would recognise the movement language, even in reverse.
4 How has the act changed over time?
I have had to edit the music, depending on the entrance/exit and stage dimensions of each venue. Performing this act in Club Swizzle, on a long bar/catwalk stage in the round wasn’t easy to accomplish, but it certainly keeps me on my toes.I used to have a small choreography section down on my knees, which I had to cut and replace due to my reoccurring knee problems. Sometimes the act had to function on its own, without an introduction. That led me to add a short forward section at the top as a hint and another at the end of the act as a reminder. I don’t think an act ever stops changing.
5 What came first?
The costume, the music, the choreography etc.?In this case: the brief, followed by the idea, then the music (Dan Auerbach’s ‘Keep It Hid’) backwards, the costume (which was dominated by functionality and hasn’t changed at all) and finally the process.
6 If the act has some personal meaning, does that same emotion still drive you? Did you use the act to help cope or overcome a problem? Did it help? I can’t say that it does
.As I mentioned before, the act was created for my burlesque mentor’s show. It had to be of a high standard. It was a ‘don’t fuck it up’ moment.Upon reflection, I learnt it was possible for me to create and perform a piece which wasn’t character driven. It was alien territory for me, it still is. Gurning comes far more naturally to me.
7 Have you ever been asked to change part of it?
When The Box first booked the act, I thought I may be asked to alter/shorten it. They left me to it and provided me with incredible lighting, programmed in reverse.
8 Is there anything missing from the act you’d like to be in it but can’t due to logistics, prop dreams,money etc?
I have a couple of, near impossible, additions in mind. Hopefully one of them will be up my sleeve to surprise you guys with in the future… Oooh she’s a tease.
9 Where did you first perform the act?
At London’s Hippodrome Casino in the Matcham Room.
10 And what has been your favourite time performing the act?
I’ve had the privilege of performing this act all over: from Las Vegas at Bhof, to the Sydney Opera House and the London Roundhouse with Club Swizzle, to NY with Sublime Boudoir, the Wunderground with Black Cat and last but not least the Double R Club at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, where it most likely truly belongs…
11 If you were creating this act again now, would you do anything different?
I would create it for another performer. That fills me with excitement for new possibilities!
12 Do you ever ask particular people to critique your acts, or do you listen to random ones that suggested changing music, a pose or adding a prop? If you did get critique did you change it? Why/why not? Did it help?
In my experience, cabaret, circus and burlesque performers can be a great source of constructive criticism. If you are able to successfully combine being open to suggestions/change and knowing when to apply ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’, you’re onto a good thing. But the audience will tell you all you need to know. They are paying you to be entertained, moved, wowed, transported, etc. When you’re performing you can tune into how the atmosphere changes, dips, peaks, etc. It’s fascinating and sometimes frustratingly tricky to try and decipher those reactions, to then make the necessary shifts to improve your time on stage.Listen to your gut, your audience, your peers, whatever works for you, just ignore the little (yet often loud) voices of self-doubt in your head, the latter really don’t know what the fuck they are talking about!