Mandy Tootill works at the University of Manchester in media services and is a trained graphic designer. In 2009 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and talked to us about how “it changes your outlook” on life and her new Burlesque show.
Mandy admitted that she “used to hate talking in public,” but at a charity night at the Frog and Bucket, when she was five years clear of cancer, she decided to take a step outside her comfort zone — she tried stand up comedy. Upon stepping onto the stage, Mandy recounts that she was “terrified until they put the microphone in [her hand].” Her five-minute set that followed was an intimate look into her experience with breast cancer.
She matter of factly stated that “cancer is like Voldemort, we’re scared to say the word.” Her comedy, now in the form of her solo show Twin Peaks, aims to “break down the barriers” surrounding the taboo subject.
Mandy was keen to tell us more about ‘Titters and Tassels’, a show performed with her comedy partner Kerry Leigh under the names, Toots and Leigh. The two comics host a show consisting of burlesque acts “interjected with [comedy] sketches.” Despite seeming an odd combination, Mandy informed us that burlesque actually finds its roots in comedy; the word burlesque is derived from the Italian term ‘burla’, which translates as ‘a joke’.
Mandy explained that co-hosting ‘Titters and Tassels’ shows how comedy and burlesque can be “accessible to all.” Comparing the show to her solo performances, she explained that Toots and Leigh provide the “freedom to play with characters,” whereas ‘Twin Peaks’ is more personal.
To those who stigmatise burlesque and paint it as something ‘sleazy’, Mandy provides the challenge “come and see the show.” She described burlesque as “another performance art” which is all about personality and energy, stemming from the art of striptease. She added, however, that stripping isn’t a necessity in burlesque and that “it’s empowering, even as a spectator.”
The burlesque community is “endlessly supportive”, burlesque is not exclusively female performers, there are the amusing coined ‘boylesquers’. Mandy was clearly passionate about how inclusive burlesque is as an art form; all types of people can enjoy the show. ‘Titters and Tassels’ creates unity regardless of familiarity.
‘Titters and Tassels’ is coming to Manchester on the 14th October and promises to be a show not to be missed. Students will be pleased to hear that Toots and Leigh are offering a special student discount, follow the link below and enter code TOOTSANDLEIGH. We’ve definitely learnt that the ‘beauty of burlesque and comedy [is that] it’s for everyone’ and we can’t wait to see the show first hand!
‘Titters and Tassels’ event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/166830570851116/
Student discount link: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/titters-and-tassels-student-offer-tickets-50488989928
By Anuli Changa and Bella Jewell