- Daily & Weekly newsletters
- Buy & download The Bulletin
- Comment on our articles
Profile: How British-Belgian comedian Siân Docksey juggles pole dancing, writing and LGBTQ+ activism
Making a living as a stand-up started out as a happy accident for British-Belgian comedian Siân Docksey. The 32-year-old Cambridge graduate and European School alumnus dived into the world of humour after offering to take the microphone when a fellow student dropped out of a famous Footlights gig. Fortune has since favoured this rather brave move.
She’s a familiar face on the British comedy circuit and renowned as quite a polymath. In addition to performing her unique brand of often surrealist comedy, Docksey has acted, written, produced, directed and set designed numerous shows.
Now she is about to impress audiences with her latest routine Work in Pole-gress. Already an accomplished pole dancer, Docksey decided to blend this hobby with her comedy routine, but it’s all in the best possible taste. She points out that she’s fully dressed, although she likes to don ridiculously high heels to add a little drama to the complex fusion of pole dancing and comedy.
Speaking to The Bulletin about her career, the comedian said she started performing by accident when she joined the famous Cambridge Footlights sketch troupe at university as an English and Drama undergraduate. Footlights is renowned in the UK for producing acting greats such as Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry and the Monty Python gang, to name a few.
“I had agreed to stand in for someone but I lied when they asked me if I had done it before. From there I just started writing bits and pieces of sketch comedy and theatre scripts, and I hopped between acting, set design, cabaret and all kinds of jobs,” she explained.
Growing up in Brussels to British parents, Docksey is a former student of European School 2 in Woluwe. “My parents have been really supportive despite secretly hoping I come to my senses and got a proper job in human resources, but I think it was clear I wanted to become a writer and I always flip flopped between different outlets for that… plays, making shows, bullying my long suffering friends into doing them with me.”
Although she’s largely performed in the UK, Docksey would love to return to the stage in Brussels and is hoping she can tour with her latest pole dancing show. She’s already inspired youngsters while conducting workshops for the amateur group Theatre in English, where she spent her formative years. “I would love to come to Brussels, to perform, fingers crossed,’ she said.
Lockdown during coronavirus was tough for her like so many in her line of business and she briefly moved back to her childhood home in the Brussels suburb of Woluwe-Saint-Pierre.
“I had some silver linings during lockdown in that I was offered a Creative Fellowship with Arts and Culture from the University of Exeter.” This led to writing a new show she describes as a surrealist panic attack about the current climate crisis, We live in a Human Dream, in which Docksey tries to impress an octopus.
Her close pal Zoe Tomalin has already proved to be a rock by her side as co-writer and fellow performer, “putting on unapologetically alternative shows”. Together, they’ve staged numerous routines, which some have described tongue firmly in cheek as “high-concept absurdist, unrelatable comedy for nihilist witches.”
As a solo performer, she’s penned a comedy short for BBC3’s Swan, which starred Game of Thrones and The Full Monty actor Mark Addy, has taken five shows to the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival, written for BBC radio and Channel Four, and is currently working on various other scripts for television.
Docksey identifies as queer but is keen to stress she is not seeking to be a ‘poster girl’ for the LGBTQ+ community. “I talk a lot about my own experiences on stage and inevitably themes connected to the LGBTQ+ community regularly come up.” She’s been involved with projects which are explicitly by and for queer people, including a comedy night with a sexual health clinic in London.
She’s also acted in Patrick Cash’s play Queers and has contributed to the web series The Grass is Always Grindr. “I am definitely interested in projects that are messy, contradictory and chaotic about human beings regardless of their gender or sexuality. This is me being an aggressively non-committal bisexual, probably.”
Also coming up is a gig at east London’s The Glory, a pub and performance venue for queer acts. And she’s also co-hosting the UK capital’s monthly experimental night, organised by the Alternative Comedy Memorial Society.
“I honestly think this an amazing time more than ever for proper hilarious, artistic and madly inventive comedy,” enthused Docksey, who admires fellow comics Josie Long, Desiree Burch, and the kings of slap stick and surrealism, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer. Her earliest inspiration was Irish comedian actor and writer, Dylan Moran, who performed at a stand-up comedy night at Théâtre 140 in Schaerbeek when she was a child.
Is the industry still heavily dominant with male comedians? “I have heard that being a woman in comedy is now a major barrier to men being successful. I hope government arts funding or charity organisations step in to protect the dying art of men’s comedy before it’s too late,” she chuckled.
But what can we expect with her latest creation of pole dancing and comedic delivery? “Ah, well, you will have to come to my shows to see how I do it.”
Photos: Millie Robson