Siân Docksey: Pole Yourself Together, review: chaotic but charming sketches from a pole-dancing comedian

Siân Docksey
Siân Docksey

In this hard-working spectacle, Docksey, former sex worker, Belgian’s number one pole-dancing comedian and leading light in the Alternative Comedy Memorial Society, riffed on how pole dancing helps dispel her existential dread. With said pole fixed firmly on stage, she used skilful displays of sensual athletics – loudly informing embarrassed liberals that the point of the pole is to watch her perform – to deliver stunning visual jokes and impressions. A bikini-clad comic impersonating the UK border, a pretzel from the point of view of someone with gluten intolerance and a prop in Fast and Furious 9 all defeat attempts at description.

Around these feats she joked about the black dog of despondency that makes her life seem pointless, delivered with the sassy beam of a showgirl. It was stretching the limits of the word “incongruous” to see her proudly declare “I’m not pro-death. I’m post-body positive” with her face all teeth and glittering eyes.

Docksey has an elegant way with words, explaining that the pole has “caused more bruises than a dyspraxic couple’s first night of BDSM”, while her skin is now “so callused and rubbery that I can’t feel anything, like a walrus full of morphine or a British royal”. Presumably her eloquence accounts for her first-class degree from Cambridge, which she casually informed us she earned when discussing her parents’ disappointment at her career choice in comedy. They weren’t entirely happy when she became a stripper, she added, but at least she was earning money.

She was at her best when unleashing her vocabulary on herself. Her tales of formulaic German techno dancing while trying to stop thinking about the privatisation of the railways, or anger over climate change, were less successful but she was charismatic enough to paper over the gaps with exuberance.

There’s been an increasing overlap between former or current sex workers and Fringe stand-up, with acts such as Fern Brady, Sophie Willan, Lane Kwederis and Kaytlin Bailey, all using comedy to question morality. At one point Docksey recalled meeting a woman who designs missiles for a living on a pole-dancing weekend workshop and was outraged when the woman scorned her stripping. “When a stripper fills out a risk assessment form, nowhere does it include the word Yemen,” she pointed out.

Overall, the show felt a little jerky. It was a chaotic string of individually charming routines – both comedy and pole – that didn’t quite knit together into a coherent hour, but her sheer chutzpah kept the audience on side.