THE Korean-born, London-based cabaret performer tells EDWIN GILSON about her new show based on her extraordinary life.

IN 1974, Veronica Thompson (who obviously didn’t go by that name at the time) was found abandoned outside a police station in South Korea.

Needless to say, she doesn’t remember anything about it now. But that hasn’t stopped her from basing her new show Flights of Fancy around being orphaned, subsequently adopted – by a “loving” family in Seattle – and eventually becoming a respected cabaret performer.

Thompson, who goes by the stage name Fancy Chance, has just finished a gruelling stint at the Edinburgh Festival, having debuted the show in Soho in London – a place she knows inside out. Before a date in Brighton, she says it took her time to find the confidence to be able to write about such personal themes. And even when the script was completed, performing it was no picnic.

“It was really difficult to rehearse at first – I was basically breaking down in tears. I struggled with it but it’s an important story.” Judging by the evidence of our interview Thompson is clearly comfortable discussing her past, but it’s still admirable that she talks in such frank terms about her abandonment as a baby.

“Either my mother just didn’t want me or it was for financial reasons, but the whole thing is mired in the idea that it [being orphaned] is not good. I think about it a lot, especially as I’m older now and my friends have kids.”

It was also Thompson’s intention to branch out into wider social and political tropes – although she doesn’t want to “bang the hippy drum about war and peace”. She says: “To me it was all about empathy and compassion. I’ve been an immigrant and immigration is obviously a global problem. Politicians use refugees for their own good.”

One of the most poignant parts of Flights of Fancy sees Thompson imagining conversations that might have taken place between her younger self and her birth mother. This is part of the performer’s deeper preoccupation with the art of invention. She says she’s changed her name a “million times”, starting at the age of 15 when she began acting school.

“Having another name allowed me to embody another personality,” she adds. “It makes it easier to express yourself. I have the freedom to invent myself because my idea of family is very different.”

After marrying in Seattle, Thompson moved to London at the turn of the century. There she found a welcoming community of cabaret and burlesque performers. While it was difficult for any performer to pay their way in the capital (Thompson supplemented her performances with a job in a Soho fetish shop) she says the appetite for “variety shows” was huge. While you might think of burlesque, especially, as an entertaining but shallow spectacle, Thompson says the roots of the art form are subversive.

“Burlesque started as a group of people taking the **** in a naughty way. But the more popular things get, the more normative they get. Women taking their clothes off tends to appeal to the masses and the male gaze.” Doesn’t this bother her? “I don’t tend to think about it. I’m quite comfortable with my body and don’t get naked unless there’s a reason for it. There was a review I quite liked which said that I get butt-naked on stage but you don’t really notice.”

Thompson has had some difficult things to come to terms with in her life, but she can take great pride in knowing she is doing exactly what she was born to do. “I was the one singing along to Barry Manilow at my fifth birthday party,” she laughs. “That performer has always been in me.”

Fancy Chance, The Marlborough Pub and Theatre, September 15 and 16, for tickets and more information visit