Words & illustrations by Emily Doyle
The Glee Club is dark and full when compère Alfie Ordinary appears on stage. Some might recognise his pageboy haircut and Twiggy-esque makeup from a certain car advert. He’s not here to sell you a reasonably priced three-door hatchback tonight; Ordinary is hosting the evening on behalf of Eat Sleep Drag Repeat, and doing so with bells on.
Styling himself as a ‘drag prince’, he skips across the stage welcoming the crowd. Clad in a bedazzled suit jacket and shorts, he seems to be wearing as much glitter as is physically possible as he welcomes the acts to the stage. That is until he returns after the interval – kicking off the second half of the show with a sing-a-long rendition of ‘Any Dream Will Do’, Ordinary is resplendent in his very own technicolour dreamcoat.
Birmingham drag performer Paul Aleksandr is there to represent the local scene. One quarter of our city’s Dragpunk Collective, Aleksandr describes himself as a clubkid and genderfucker with “a slight Slenderman vibe”. That vibe is clear from his performance tonight. Appearing on stage in one if his now trademark creations of body paint and butchered cuddly toys, Aleksandr performs a perfectly urgent lip sync to ‘I’m Late’ from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. The forlorn-looking stuffed rabbit on his headpiece flops its ears as he gesticulates.
Eva Serration was a late addition to the line-up tonight, travelling down from Manchester to join the ESDR party. Her drag takes pop culture and cinematic tropes and weaves them into political, avant-garde drag. She cuts Lady Gaga’s mariachi tinged protest song ‘Americano’ with soundbites from Donald Trump, and proceeds to demolish a makeshift wall with a golf club.
Throughout the night we see her best Miley Cyrus, complete with a wig reveal homage to Sasha Velours’ iconic ‘So Emotional’ performance, and a fond nod to Tarantino’s bloodthirsty schoolgirl Gogo Yubari. While Serration’s drag isn’t the most polished of the night, her performance is innovative – and who at a drag show is going to complain about a bit of Trump bashing?
Lydia L’Scabies proves “the bigger the hair, the better the queen” with her inspired routine to ‘Big Spender’. The University of Brighton Performance Art graduate (where did you think drag queens came from?) gives the best comedic turn of the night with her jarring performance. Don’t let anybody tell you that lip syncing Shirley Bassey can’t be original.
A heartfelt performance of ‘Jessie’s Song’ from Toy Story 2 while dressed as a “personal massager” makes up her second turn. L’Scabies execution is bold and theatrical, but the joke is arguably played out before the song is over.
Of course, the crowd is here to see BenDeLaCrème; following her controversial departure from Ru Paul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 3, DeLa has been the subject of much discussion. Fellow competitors sarcastically dubbed the queen “BenDeLaChrist” after she ducked out of the competition early, keeping her ‘terminally delightful’ reputation intact and telling Ru Paul “I feel like a winner”. A group of fans online have taken her departure as a personal slight against them. BenDeLaCrème has something to say about this.
The opening bars of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ fill The Glee Club. In a pure white robe, DeLa makes her first appearance on stage. She takes the mic and launches into a smarting takedown of the viewer response to the series.
She performs an original song on the subject live – later revealing that she wrote it especially for this UK tour – as familiar voice samples from the TV show play throughout. DeLa produces a golden crown of thorns and shrugs off her robe to reveal a bodysuit sequined to represent the wounds of the crucifixion. She poses, and the track finishes. When the applause subsides, she wishes the crowd a happy Easter.
The rest of the show sees BenDeLaCrème charm the crowd with her trademark persona. She coaxes audience members through a lip sync and performs a fan favourite from the TV show, her burlesque comedy routine. For the unacquainted, this involves DeLa removing bra after bra, revealing increasingly ludicrous nipple tassles. It’s a crowdpleaser, although it doesn’t have the same impact as her original material.
The next day, I caught up with performer Paul Aleksandr to get his take on the evening:
“I really loved how full a show it was, and how it flowed so well – Birmingham hasn’t had that many shows like that before so it’s a wonderful new standard.
I love how self aware DeLa is. She talked about drag, the politics of it, her leaving (RuPaul Drag Race All Stars), with humour and a real knowledge of what fans think and do. She is there, like Sasha Velour is known for, with a message of inclusivity and diversity for LGBTQ people. And she came to The Nightingale After-Party, despite a busy schedule, and witnessed the best of Birmingham’s young and old queer folk on what was the club’s busiest night of the year.”
For more on BenDeLaCrème, visit www.bendelacreme.com
For more on Paul Aleksander, visit www.instagram.com/paul_aleksandr
For more on Alfie Ordinary, visit www.alfieordinary.com
For more on Lydia L’Scabies, visit www.instagram.com/lydialscabies
For more on Eva Serration, visit www.instagram.com/evaserration
For more from Eat Sleep Drag Repeat, visit www.esdrevents.co.uk
For more from The Glee Club, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.glee.co.uk