Fabulous, funny, defiant: RuPaul's Drag Race UK tour shines at one-night-only Winter Gardens show
The cultural juggernaut, which is described as ‘the closest gay culture gets to a sports league’, appeared at the Winter Gardens last night for a performance fans would never forget.
Headliner Lawrence Chaney was tragically absent from the Opera House stage as she took part in filming for an upcoming episode of Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. Instead, season 2’s runner up and unofficial Miss Congeniality, Bimini Bon-Boulash who took centre stage, rocking her Pamela Anderson-inspired ‘heroin chic’ look complete with a frazzled blonde wig and black fishnets.
The show proceeded in the manner of a cabaret, or a pageant, with each Queen taking her turn in the spotlight.
Anyone familiar with the fundamentals of drag knows it takes more than false eyelashes, padded pants and three gallons of hairspray to put on a show. The characters portrayed onstage are uniquely developed in the imaginations of their performers, brought extravagantly to life with the budget that comes with being associated with one of the most successful reality shows of the modern era, it can be compared to a collection of passion-fuelled art shows compiled and propelled to starry heights.
There's Joe Black the gravelly-voiced Baby Jane, A'Whora the Barbie doll, Veronica Green the fame-hungry diva. Tia Kofi is a 'delicious coffee beverage', Cherry Valentine is a fortune teller, Ginny Lemon is a drizzle cake on yellow Crocs, Ellie Diamond is, bizarrely, The Cat in The Hat.
The passion put into the cultivation of these crazy personas shines out from each member of the cast, and unsurprisingly ignited a frenzied excitement in last night's crowd.
Yes, some might debate the mainstream popularisation of drag. Arguments about the polishing and packaging of an age-old aspect of queer culture in order to appeal to a wider heterosexual audience have been raging for years. But the fact remains that Rupaul’s Drag Race achieved, and continues to achieve, what many thought impossible: it convinced a mainstream audience to embrace drag as an art form.
This phenomenon was clear to see at the Winter Gardens, when people of all ages, genders, and, presumably, sexualities leapt to their feet in the aisles and danced along with A’Whora as she gyrated energetically to club classics, surrounded by an entourage of scantily-dressed, muscular men, of course.
For all some might argue that RuPaul’s Drag Race sanitizes drag culture, the subject of sex is not one that is daintily stepped around; like everything else it is amped up to extravagant levels, such is the nature of drag. Tayce provided a sexually-charged dance as an X-rated version of a Dr Who cyberman, while Bimini Bon-Boulash performed indecently with a folding chair, demonstrating some impressive moves that cannot be safely described in print.
The vulgarity is enjoyably in-your-face, and, frankly, refreshing, as the world outside of LGBT communities continues to push for the de-sexualisation of queer lifestyles in order to make them more palatable, while straight sex appeal is so generally accepted it is used to sell products, from perfumes to razor blades, on the day to day.
Luckily, no one attending such a show expects a child-friendly evening (or, as it happens, exceptional singing ability, though Veronica Green valiantly belted the high notes of Diamonds Are Forever regardless).
The art of drag is more than a performance, it's a celebration. It's funny, it's ironic. It’s a defiant middle finger to the powers that be. Like the Queens themselves, it refuses to be defined in any one particular way; it is ever changing. The popularity of Drag Race and it's sold-out tour has, for better or for worse, has cast a limelight on what was once a hidden world. The gates are open; come on in.
The queens of Rupaul's Drag Race UK will return to the Opera House for their season 3 tour on September 14 2022. Tickets start at £35 can be purchased HERE.Thanks for reading. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just £1 for your first month. Try us today by clicking HERE.