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Interview: Fortuna Burke

Laundrette Superstar, the latest show from Fortuna Burke, lands into the laps of all discerning Oxonians who choose to try something new this week. The show is a combination of stand-up, over-the-top 80’s fashion, theatrical storytelling and comedy synthpop, all tied up in a nice little hour-long parcel for your amusement. Fortuna‘s character (surprisingly, also named Fortuna), is a self-proclaimed synthpop superstar and part-time laundrette assistant who lives in her Grandma’s basement.

Fortuna is convinced that she’s on the cusp of big things…if you can call “big things” performing live in a gift shop, mortuary and poorly lit car park’. So far, so good (well, maybe not for Fortuna…). What’s even better is the reviews that the show’s received, which describe it as ‘Ab Fab meets Flight of The Conchords’. When asked what makes her show different, Fortuna tells us ‘Laundrette Superstar crosses the boundary between stand-up and theatrical story-telling, the show heavily features lots of live synthpop and is complimented by surreal 80’s-style music videos’. That certainly does sound different…But Fortuna herself assures us that she’s not as ‘difficult’ as her alter ego: ‘As far as Fortuna‘s personality, self-absorption and redundant spite, I’m not sure if I can identify with that…‬’ she tells us (although she never asks how we feel about anything…). However, the show has inspired Fortuna to dabble in the alluring world of synthesizers. She started playing the synth eighteen months ago and has now acquired three of them in a musical whirlwind binge.

Fortuna was a late bloomer in the thespian field, only discovering her love of acting at age 19.  During her degree, she wrote, produced and directed her first comedy stage play, ‘It’s My Party…!’  and devised her first comedy sketch pilot show, filmed by the Oxford Film Foundation. She was also able to stage a show a Corpus Christi, which she believes was an invaluable experience: ‘It gave me the practical know-how needed to write and produce a comedy stage shows’. By age 21, she knew that she wanted to seriously write and perform comedy. ‘I joined the Soho Theatre Young Writers Program and Young Comedy programme.  These workshops taught me a huge amount about setting the scene quickly, comic timing and helped to develop my confidence in performing’.  She wants to actively encourage any budding sketch writers to persever on the road to comic acknowledgement: ‘It can be really competitive when it comes to auditioning for roles, so it might be an idea to try writing your own piece or perhaps consider collaborating with a writer or director.  It’s a huge amount of work, but it’s all worth it when you can invite industry professionals to your own show and get reviewers along’.

Fortuna compares her acting style to Eastenders funny woman Tameka Empson. ‘She plays brassy, flashy dressed and incompetent Bed and Breakfast owner Kim Fox.’ But her biggest inspiration is Victoria Wood, which seems to be where the real obsession lies. ‘I have all of her sketch books, her DVDs and recordings of her stand-up shows. If pushed I can probably recite word-for-word the script for Dinnerladies’.

Fortuna is particularly excited about her first webisode, which she’s just released with the help of some old friends from the Oxford Film Foundation, as part of her entry for the Musical Comedy Awards. ‘Contestants were asked to submit a music video under six minutes and so we thought it would be a great chance to put together a webisode while we were at it’. After endlessly searching for a filming location, the team discovered The Wishing Well, a tiny  laundrette in Golders Green.  ‘Kitty, the laundrette owner was fabulously generous and allowed us to film there for the entire day! The following week we were able to source a large room at a theatre, where we were able to film the green-screen and special effects scenes of the video!’

But Fortuna isn’t stopping here. Just like her character, she’s dreaming big. This year will see Laundrette Superstar hitting The Space as part of Programme B at The One Festival on the 23rd, 26th and 31st of January, as well as Chelsea Theatre as part of the Fresh Blood season on 20th and 21st of February. The team has also just made into the heats of the Musical Comedy Awards and will be performing at The Black Heart Camden on January 25th.
Given all this, Fortuna certainly sounds like ‘one to watch’. So go ahead and indulge in the fact that it’s only first week, put the essay on hold and watch Launderette Superstar.

Tickets for The One Festival available here

Tickets for Chelsea Theatre available here

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