Memoirs of a Showgirl – Shay Stafford and Bryce Corbett
Hachette Australia, 2010
From a six year old in pink tulle at a Queensland church hall to Paris showgirl at the most famous cabaret in the world, Shay Stafford dances her way from one side of the world to the other in pursuit of her greatest dream. But life under the make-up and sequins isn’t everything she expected. She will have to learn how to cope with quirky colleagues and confusing bureaucracy, injury and isolation, all while fixing on a dazzling smile every night and high-kicking with the best of them.
There is something fascinating for me about a memoir and the insight it gives into an alien life. Stafford quickly strips her world of any glamour, detailing the slog and indignity required to produce that nightly illusion, and the hard work that goes into getting on stage in the first place. Added to the unavoidable sleazy element of the cabaret and the constant demand for physical perfection, it does not come across as an appealing lifestyle, but Stafford’s love for performance shines through. Her writing style is unpolished and rather bland, relying too much on summary rather than the more engaging form of anecdotes. The sheer weirdness of backstage antics, though, can be very funny – a choreographer breaking into an spontaneous solo in Cuban heels, for example – making this an interesting glimpse behind the curtain.