THEY have become a staple of the Fringe, treading the fine line between performance art, satire and titillation. But following a critical review in The Scotsman in which they were branded "miserable-looking women" adorned with the "glazed expressions of porn stars", Edinburgh's burlesque performers are fighting back.
• These members of Circus Burlesque could be among the dancers set to protest outside The Scotsman today
Supporters of the art form are set to march on this newspaper's offices today to voice their disapproval at the negative review, in which Scotsman critic Sally Stott described one dancer as having an expression "somewhere between a crack addict and a blown-up sex doll".
Elsewhere in her piece in the The Scotsman's Festival supplement, which provides the most extensive and highly-regarded coverage of the festival season, Stott describes Circus Burlesque, at the Assembly@George Street venue, as depressing.
"Here, you'll have the dubious pleasure of watching a string of miserable-looking women, with the glazed expressions of porn stars, take off shiny nylon underwear in a way that is anything but subversive, or even sexy" she says, giving it two out of five stars.
The performers are not impressed, leading to today's protest march from the Assembly Rooms in George Street to The Scotsman's office in Holyrood Road where staff will be confronted by the sight of the scantilly-clad demonstrators.
Tempest Rose, compere of the Circus Burlesque show, said: "As a community, we really feel that Sally Stott is claiming that burlesque pushes an agenda to women that stripping off is empowering. She misses the point that burlesque performers enjoy what they do because it promotes the idea that a woman can be intelligent and powerful as well as expressing and enjoying their sensuality and that the two are not mutually exclusive to each other."
Ms Rose said the performers took offence at the descriptions comparing them to crack addicts, sex dolls and miserable-looking porn stars. She said this was also offensive to the audiences who enjoyed burlesque, the majority of whom were women. Burlesque and cabaret performers across Scotland have been invited to today's protest.
Responding to their concerns, Stott stood by her comments.
"I went to see the show with an open mind.
"Having read quite a lot about burlesque I was thinking I would see quite glamorous, sophisticated images, maybe with stripping but not seedy. But going to see the shows I was really disappointed, and I don't know whether it was just the burlesque at Edinburgh this year or if it is burlesque generally."
An Assembly Festival spokeswoman said they were "incredibly supportive" of the Circus Burlesque act.
"It has been receiving very favourable four-star reviews from other publications, so it has been critically well-received," she said. "Audiences are voting with their feet and they are looking at sold-out houses on almost every night."
Andrew Eaton, The Scotsman's arts editor, said: "If Sally's piece has provoked debate that's healthy; provoking debate is exactly what a good Fringe reviewer should be doing."