My Burlesque Character? What on Earth is That?

This week’s blog is dedicated to helping new performers understand characterisation for stage.

Firstly, why do we need a character for stage…

Unless you are one of those people who in “real” life does everything bigger, better, louder and with more confidence (as a side note, this would make you a very annoying person in an everyday situation!) then you need an onstage character or persona. Whether you are portraying an actual character on stage (then it is obvious you will need to project that character), doing a straight-forward strip / bump and grind or hitting the stage via other means – say, public speaking, performing a drama or in a band – or even a comedian, who seems like they are talking on stage as ‘themselves’ – all have adopted a stage persona. Going onstage as yourself – no matter how great you are – just will not do, as on stage, everything needs to be bigger, bolder and you need to have a confidence that you belong up there too… And the audience need to believe in what you are doing, and they won’t believe it if you don’t believe in the character you have created for yourself. Trust me.


Let’s start with an easy one… an obvious character…

So you’ve sorted your idea for the routine out, the storyline and now you just need to become the protaganist. How do you do that? Research… and thinking outside the box… It’s all very well going through the motions of the routine, but you cannot rely on just a costume to make the audience believe you. Here’s some helpful questions to find answers when creating your character:

What is my character?

What does she do?

How does she make others (audiences?) feel?

What moves does she/he throw to re-enforce that?

Is she powerful / timid / sexy / domineering / fearful / to be feared / cute / ditsy / forgetful (and any others you can think of…)

how does her face move?

How does she remove costume pieces with this motivation (or essence in character)?

What is her end goal? Is it to make the audience love/hate/cheer/boo/shocked/laugh?

Some performers find it helpful to create a mood board of their character, sticking things to it like pics of models that are wearing things their characters would, of colours and textures that represent their character, of props and bits and pieces that represent their character. It’s a good idea to take a picture of your mood board and keep it somewhere that you can refer to it before you hit the stage to help you get into character…


Adopting a Stage Persona if your act doesn’t involve an obvious character…

You might think you don’t need an ‘on stage persona’ but let us tell you that adopting a different attitude when you go on stage is just like putting on a character – it will help you focus your mind for the task in hand and what you want to achieve from the experience on stage and will help you be ‘larger than life’. Ultimately, the goal is to project yourself on to that stage and out to the audience, to impress the audience, to get them to sit up and take notice, To entertain them. Think how you want the audience to feel when they see you… Breathe deeply and make yourself bigger and bolder. Try and project your attitude through your eyes – by this we don’t mean stare out the audience… We mean try and capture the essence of yourself in your eyes – like when you are posing for a photo. Try it in a mirror, or even in a selfie, it takes a bit of practice but that will help you engage and give you a bit of magic when interacting with your audience. You cannot really teach stage presence, it is something that comes with practice – and the lucky few have it naturally.

Think  it’s not worth all the bother? Think you can just go on stage as you are… Well think again! Harsh we know, but we think anyone who goes on stage should be worth watching (and shelling out ticket money to watch). If you want your audience to feel deflated, non-plussed, not impressed or even bothered, even that they could do better themselves, then why are you wanting to get on stage? No one wants to be the “performer” talked about for all the wrong reasons, and a performer is there to perform after all…

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