BREVIEW: Boulet Brothers’ Dragula @ The Nightingale Club 07.09.18

Boulet Brothers’ Dragula @ The Nightingale Club 07.09.18

Words & illustrations by Emily Doyle

The freaks and geeks of Birmingham’s drag scene have arrived at The Nightingale Club in their droves to welcome the Boulet Brothers on their first UK Tour. Dragula has finally made it to the UK, and it’s about time.

For the uninitiated, Dragula is to Ru Paul’s Drag Race what I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here is to Pop Idol. The show started life as a live talent show on the LA and San Francisco nightlife scene, before becoming a straight-to-YouTube TV show with a cult audience. It’s since been picked up by Canadian cable channel OutTV, and with its third season in the works it shows no signs of slowing down.

The Boulet Brothers emerge to the strains of the show’s growling theme music. They are bathed in red light. Making no assumptions about their audience’s familiarity with the show, the brothers Dracmorda and Swanthula brief the crowd on Dragula’s aim to, “locate, articulate and elevate alternative forms of drag.” They make no bones about their stance on inclusivity, throwing only a little bit of shade at the Drag Race model when they declare that it, “doesn’t matter what’s between your legs” in drag. 

Vander Van Odd - Boulet Brothers’ Dragula @ The Nightingale Club 07.09.18Once the formalities are out the way, the Boulet Brothers introduce the first act of the evening: “Birmingham, put those filthy hands together, and welcome to the stage, Vander Von Odd!”

Resplendent in a Batwing cape and winged eyeliner sharp enough to cut a man, Vander Von Odd sets the tone for the evening. Crowned the ‘World’s First Drag Supermonster’ at the conclusion of Dragula’s first season, Odd has a lot to answer for. Her first performance is an impassioned lip sync routine to some euphoric electropop from Sweden’s iamamiwhoami. It’s triumphant, and culminates in an in-your-face nude illusion reveal. When Odd returns to the stage later in the evening, however, she’s upped her game – stumbling out into the spotlight, an umbilical cord of red silk tied around her waist, and disappearing behind the curtains. She wears a white latex ballerina outfit and picks her way across the stage en pointe to the strains of ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’. It’s fragile, arresting, and heartbreaking.

James Majesty - Boulet Brothers’ Dragula @ The Nightingale Club 07.09.18Not all of Dragula’s performers are pitching quite such high brow acts. Season 2 runner up, James Majesty, treats us to two salacious performances, spraying the crowd with beer and slapping the faces of the front row. A provocative routine to glam rockers Semi Precious Weapons sees Majesty fully nude by the end of the song – there’s no illusion here. Alongside her drag, Majesty has been both a sex worker and educator; her shameless attitude is contagious.

Season 1’s Meatball injects a little more humour into the evening with her performances. Strutting on stage with an old McDonald’s advert playing on the screen behind her, she adjusts her yellow bodysuit and produces a paper bag. Her wig is bright red, yellow highlights at the front mirroring the golden arches on the screen behind her. Her lipsync drips with attitude, cutting between Ke$ha’s ‘Woman’ and a monologue ripped straight from YouTube about a woman being denied an extra McRib at a drive-thru (if you’re as clueless as I was, search for ‘tell ‘em Carla sent you’ and all will be revealed). By the end she is tossing room temperature hamburgers (mercifully still wrapped) from the paper bag into the audience. The gentleman behind me catches one and eats it with vigour.

Meatball - Boulet Brothers’ Dragula @ The Nightingale Club 07.09.18The Boulet Brothers take some time out of the show to record a message from the crowd to Season 2’s Victoria Black, who’s had to pull out of the tour due to illness. In their words, however, her loss is our gain. Atlanta performer, Abhora, is here to take her place and presents what might be the most disarming performances of the night.

The word “Abhora” has barely left our host’s lips before the lights dim, and the crashing guitar of Marilyn Manson’s ‘Astonishing Panorama of the End Times’ fades in over the PA system. At the far end of the venue Abhora emerges, wading through the crowd on stilts. She’s draped in bin bags, looking like Disney’s Maleficent if Debbie Harry did her wardrobe. Perched atop her backcombed grey wig are a pair of Mickey Mouse ears. She throws herself against the room’s lit-up pillars, trusting audience members to get out of the way in time. As John 5’s revolting speed metal guitar solo kicks in, Abhora holds aloft a plush Donald Duck, strung up to a wooden crucifix like a marionette. She whirls it around as the crowd ducks to avoid being hit, before collapsing in a daring stage dive.

Perhaps the most hotly awaited performer of the evening is the winner of Dragula Season 2, Biqtch Puddin‘. She has a reputation for pushing the boundaries of weird, even in drag circles. Her first performance of the evening is centred around the unsolved homicide of child beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey, a theme clearly chosen for its tastelessness. However, it would probably be more provocative to an American audience – or at least one who weren’t mostly children themselves in 1996 when it played out in the US media.Abhora - Boulet Brothers’ Dragula @ The Nightingale Club 07.09.18

Puddin’s second performance, however, is bang on the money. Dressed in a grubby boiler suit, her hair and makeup feel like a nod to Tim Curry’s Dr Frank-n-Furter. Her lipsync, an old school mix of Whitney Houston, Tiffany, and Berlin, tells the tale of a janitor’s forbidden love for her anthropomorphised cleaning supplies. It’s as surreal as it sounds, and comes to a head with Puddin’ smeared with an ominous brown fluid as she applies a plunger to her face. It’s stomach turning, and it’s exactly what the Dragula fans are here for.

Towards the end of the evening, Dracmorda and Swanthula take some time out of the proceedings for a quick Q&A with the crowd. They refuse to comment on the forthcoming third season, but are otherwise happy to talk about anything from the show’s origins to break-up advice. (“Be polite about it, OK, because you could make a good friend out of that person. Look at what you agree with them on, just make the best of it… otherwise, if they really are awful you could just run ‘em down with your car, that’s another option.”) Fans are clearly heartened to have the chance to put their questions straight to the Boulet Brothers; in a community where the only real mainstream representation of drag queens are Ru Paul’s VH1 vetted glamazons, Dragula represents a punk spirit at the heart of the art form. It’s a breath of fresh air, and a call to arms for would be performers. The brothers have time for one more question:

Aside from filth, horror and glamour, what’s at the heart of a true monster?” muses Swanthula, before her brother interrupts – “Tenacity, tenacity, tenacity!” Dracmorda cries. “If you’re going to become the ‘World’s Drag Supermonster’, it is going to be difficult! It is not Ru Paul’s Drag Race-to-stardom! It is gonna kick your ass, you’re gonna have to perform in crazy places, but you know what? The fans are gonna be passionate, they’re gonna love you, and you’re gonna do fucking amazing.”

It’s on that note that the Boulet Brothers clear the stage for the night’s closing performance, and prepare for a meet and greet. There are smiles all round and the room is abuzz with speculation for the show’s next season. The brothers hint that some UK talent might make an appearance, but refuse to give any more away – it seems British fans will have to wait for it to air to see if they can spot any familiar faces…

For more on Boulet Brothers’ Dragula, visit www.bouletbrothersdragula.com

For more from Eat Sleep Drag Repeat, including further event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.esdrevents.co.uk

For more on The Nightingale Club, including venue details and further event listings, visit www.nightingaleclub.co.uk

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NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To sign up to NOT NORMAL – NOT OK, click here. To know more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK sticker campaign, click here.

BREVIEW: BenDeLaCrème’s Inferno A-Go-Go! @ O2 Academy Birmingham 26.08.18

BenDeLaCrème’s Inferno A-Go-Go! @ O2 Academy Birmingham 26.08.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

 

 

 

Words by Lydia Fitzer / Pics by Eleanor Sutcliffe

It’s Sunday night and I’m feeling fierce. I’m wearing my finest studs and tassels. I’m ready to strut into the O2 Academy with twinkly eyes and lacy thighs to communicate with a higher being: The Goddess of Drag. Tonight she will be channelled by Magical Queens with wit as sharp as their nails.

The first Magical Queen to the stage is no less glorious for being less famous. Her name is Meth. She emerges in a charcoal gown which glimmers like glass. Her purple hair is opulent. Her makeup is overstated and ferocious – yellows, purples, black and harsh white. Her face screams “Don’t f*ck with me”, but her personality is so endearing that you fall in love. She is the best friend you wish you had. Or perhaps the most loveable evil step mother of all time, as demonstrated by her opening Disney-themed lip sync. Her set has a real personal touch. You want to get to know her better – you want to follow her career.

Meth - supporting BenDeLaCrème’s Inferno A-Go-Go! @ O2 Academy Birmingham 26.08.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

Meth performs to grandiose tracks in an almost self-depreciating comical style, using slapstick to poke fun at the song and at herself. It’s really hilarious. Despite that, it’s clear that her performance is highly skilled. She jokes that her fans know she loves “standing and doing FA” lip syncing to a ballad, but there is nothing lazy about this queen. She bounds across the stage like a sexy kangaroo, if such a thing were possible.

For her final number, a lip sync of Meatloaf’s ‘Bat Out of Hell’, Meth asks the audience to imagine lots of fire and special effects (although she really doesn’t need to – she is pure fire). She steps forth in white tights, shrouded in a black shimmery cape. She is already the most gorgeous bat I’ve ever seen. When the first chorus hits, she spreads her arms and opens her cape into – you guessed it – a giant pair of bat wings. It was a glorious moment. She brings truly world-class lip sync and comic delivery, plus the gnarliest air guitar in history. I am convinced by this performance that Meth is correct – Meatloaf is, in fact, “a lazy f*cking drag queen”.

BenDeLaCrème’s Inferno A-Go-Go! @ O2 Academy Birmingham 26.08.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

Meth’s set is all too short, although it is a delicious appetiser for BenDeLaCrème. I seriously appreciate how Meth tailors her performance to complement DeLa’s theme. It sets the audience up perfectly for a premature tour of the less-desirable afterlife.

“I hate to burst your Beelzebubble, but we’ll be talking about 14th Century Italian Literature.”

Yep, you heard her correctly. DeLa is basing Inferno A-Go-Go on Dante’s Inferno. It’s the first part of The Divine Comedy, during which Dante travels through the Nine Circles of Hell and ultimately meets the Devil himself. Don’t worry – if you see this tour, you’re not expected to be familiar with Dante’s Inferno. DeLa asks, “Who has actually read Dante’s Inferno?” In response to scattered cheers, she says, “Ah, so here we have the nerds… and the liars!” Not to worry, though. DeLa has “thoroughly skimmed the CliffsNotes”, and is ready to guide us through the experience admirably.

She writhes onto stage, doubled over in a hooded black cloak. You hear her introduce the agonies of hell in a deep, sinister voice… and with perfect comic timing, break into a coughing fit. She throws off her cloak to reveal a tiny red tasselled number, complete with Devil ears.BenDeLaCrème’s Inferno A-Go-Go! @ O2 Academy Birmingham 26.08.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

Before she leads us into the world below, however, she does address the elephant in the room. Most RuPaul fans will be aware of BenDeLaCrème only through RuPaul’s Drag Race and All Stars. Season 6 of Drag Race saw DeLa crowned as Miss Congeniality, and Season 3 of All Stars brought that dramatic self-elimination after she was on track to win. DeLa is well aware that a few of the audience are only here because of these shows. She confronts this by giving precisely six seconds of All Stars fan service, for anyone in the audience who’s just dying to hear Maria von Trapp sing RuPaul’s ‘Call Me Mother’. Then no more. This is DeLa’s show, and you will get to know her as the artist she truly is.

DeLa claims that her passion is “taking something smart and making it just a little bit stupid. Honestly, while her interpretation of Dante’s Inferno is a lot more accessible to a modern audience, I think that what she’s really done is add her own type of smart. The jokes are current, sharp, and sometimes just on the right side of being a bad pun. For me she’s her own brand of comic genius.

BenDeLaCrème’s Inferno A-Go-Go! @ O2 Academy Birmingham 26.08.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeWe enter Hell to the most delightful parody of Miley Cyrus’s ‘Party in the USA’; ‘Party in the HEL’. As DeLa points out, there is a clear link between human suffering and Miley Cyrus’s music. She sings rather than lip syncs, bouncing between teen pop bubbles and bloodcurdling screams of horror. It’s immaculate and seemingly effortless. I definitely prefer it to the original.

There is a large screen on stage used to set the scene of Hell. While DeLa sneaks away to change, a short video plays which introduces Hell in holiday cruise-ship style. It flows seamlessly into the rest of the show. DeLa re-emerges in a kitschy pink and yellow ensemble to rapturous admiration.

I won’t describe every single detail of the rest of the show, because I don’t want to spoil it for you. You have to go see it for yourself. I will share some pearls of wisdom from the Second Circle of Hell, though. Did you know that if you’re a pervert who watches Internet porn, you’ll be doomed to spend eternity in the form of the rags you use to wipe up your “sinful seed”? Also, DeLa found herself questioning why there seemed to be no women in the lustful area of Hell. According to a travel brochure, “Women who enjoy sex are in Hell, but it’s just our regular living world.”

BenDeLaCrème’s Inferno A-Go-Go! @ O2 Academy Birmingham 26.08.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeContinuing down through Hell, I notice that DeLa’s comedy is incredibly political. We’re given an amazing satire of America’s gun crisis by a centaur. He happens to be a Hellian patriot in a ‘Make Hell Great Again’ cap. He punishes black people who once smoked a joint on the same level as white people who drove a bus full of orphaned nuns into a lake. When DeLa questions his obvious racism, she takes an arrow to the butt. The centaur isn’t sorry, though – apparently, he’s proud of his right to bear arms. Sound familiar?

It’s funny, though. All of the social satire is incredibly funny… Until we meet the harpy and her trees. The trees are a sudden, profound reminder that in the real world these issues have serious consequences. The trees are the prison of the souls who committed suicide, and, as the harpy says, “Never did nothing to nobody […] Society failed them”. DeLa wonders why those souls are doomed to Hell at all. She asks, “Who is deciding this stuff? Is it demons or… the Devil or… God or… someone else?” She speaks in a whisper, and the silence is deafening.

We go straight from here to the most fabulous part of Hell, the gay beach (I love the accuracy of DeLa’s interpretations. In the original Inferno, the sodomites inhabited a desert of burning sand). It’s an almost immediate antidote to the sadness of a few moments ago. The comedy is pumped to the max, and the vibe is infectious. DeLa asks, “Is that Nancy Reagan?” “Yeah,” says our ultra-camp new friend. “She isn’t gay but this is still her Hell.”

BenDeLaCrème’s Inferno A-Go-Go! @ O2 Academy Birmingham 26.08.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeDeLa takes us through the Eighth Circle of Hell using ‘Disco Inferno’, complete with tight rap and the cheesiest of dance moves. We tour all ten ditches to a perfect musical performance. The comedy is excellent, and every movement is exactly in sync with the soundtrack.

Finally we reach the Ninth Circle of Hell, and a suspiciously Wizard Of Oz-esque Satan greets us on the big screen. DeLa decides to look behind the curtain, and after a hilarious back and forth during which she finds no-one, the Devil cries, “It’s you!” she replies, “Well that’s stupid. […] Why would I put myself through Hell? […] Why would I have decided that all those people are bad?” We’re treated to the corniest closing song in all the worlds and afterlives; ‘We all make the Hell that we burn in’. BenDeLaCrème leaves the stage to an earthquake of applause.

BenDeLaCrème’s Inferno A-Go-Go! is great. It is really great. It is multi-coloured. DeLa gave me DIY greenscreen to ventriloquism (I will remember meeting Indulgence Gluttington to my dying day). She and two audience members created the River Styx using pure fabric and elbow grease. She almost moved me to tears with an arrow sticking out of her butt. I leave the O2 Academy feeling strong, as though I’m breathing new air. She pulled the sulphur from my lungs.

For more on BenDeLaCrème, visit www.bendelacreme.com

For more on Meth, visit www.instagram.com/methedragqueen

For more from the MJR Group, including further event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.themjrgroup.com

For more on the O2 Academy Birmingham, including venue details and further event listings, visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2academybirmingham

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NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To sign up to NOT NORMAL – NOT OK, click here. To know more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK sticker campaign, click here.

BPREVIEW: BenDeLaCrème’s Inferno A-Go-Go! @ O2 Academy Birmingham 26.08.18

BPREVIEW: BenDeLaCrème’s Inferno A-Go-Go! @ O2 Academy Birmingham 26.08.18

Words by Ed King

On Sunday 26th August, BenDeLaCrème’s Inferno A-Go-Go! comes to the O2 Academy Birmingham – as presented by The MJR Group.

Doors open for Meet & Greet ticket holders from 5:30pm, with the VIP Meet & Greets happening from 6pm to 7pm. The hoi polloi can get access from 7pm – with entry allowed for anyone 14 and over, although under 16s will need adult accompaniment.

Standard tickets are priced at £31.45, with a little extra on top depending on how you want to collect them. For direct event information, including venue details and links to online ticket sales, click here.

Last seen by Birmingham Review at The Glee Club back in March, BenDeLaCrème shot to international acclaim through series 6 of RuPaul’s Drag Race – winning a yet to be broken five challenges in a single season, but then stepping down from the crown and making way for Bianca Del Rio to take the top spot.

A seasoned burlesque performer and actor, BenDeLaCrème has toured three solo shows including her Inferno A-Go-Go! – all of which premiered off Broadway and went on to enjoy international runs. This particular UK stint sees BenDeLaCrème’s Inferno A-Go-Go! start off with two nights at The Clapham Grand in London on Wednesday 22nd and Thursday 23rd August, stopping off in Birmingham on Sunday 26th August, then going on to theatres across the UK before laying itself to rest, for the time being at least, at The Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh on Saturday 1st September.

If you miss any of those shows and you’ve got a really serious bus pass, you could always make the next two in Canada – but for full tour details of BenDeLaCrème’s Inferno A-Go-Go!, click here.

So what can we expect when BenDeLaCrème’s Inferno A-Go-Go! comes to town..? Regular readers of Birmingham Review will know by now, if they didn’t before, that whilst drag is full of fabulous fun there are also intelligent undercurrents behind many performers on the scene. And BenDeLaCrème is one of the more high profile voices worth listening too.

Her Inferno A-Go-Go! show takes its name from Dante’s poetic journey through hell (and possibly a nightclub in West Hollywood) with the nine circles of torment setting the stage for BenDeLaCrème’s insightful wit, the odd musical number, and even some puppetry, so we’ve been told.

But we’ve also been told ‘there is real heart’, as the doomed creatures that feature on this camp journey through hell question the why, wherefore, and what the fuck did I do to end up here? And having never been one to shy away from the more honest side of pulling on your heartstrings, as well as a caustic catalogue that could keep Satan at bay, BenDeLaCrème is one queen well suited to such an exploration. And exclamation marks… I guess the devil’s work is never done.

BenDeLaCrème’s Inferno A Go Go comes to the O2 Academy Birmingham on Sunday 26th August, as presented by The MJR Group. For direct event information, including venue details and links to online ticket sales, visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2academybirmingham/events/1127503/bendelacremes-inferno-go-go-tickets 

For more on BenDeLaCrème, visit www.bendelacreme.com 

For more from the MJR Group, including further event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.themjrgroup.com

For more on the O2 Academy Birmingham, including venue details and further event listings, visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2academybirmingham

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NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To sign up to NOT NORMAL – NOT OK, click here. To know more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK sticker campaign, click here.

BPREVIEW: Blame It On Bianca Del Rio @ Symphony Hall 30.07.18

BPREVIEW: Blame It On Bianca Del Rio @ Symphony Hall 30.07.18

Words by Ashleigh Goodwin

Following her sell out Not Today Satan tour in 2016/7 , Bianca Del Rio is back at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall with her Blame It On Bianca stand-up comedy show on Monday 30th July.

The evening’s entertainment starts in the Symphony Hall Foyer & Café Bar from 6pm with a live performance from Soprano Alexandra Bork and pianist Nick Bonadies, followed by a ‘pre-show party’ with DJ Lady Miss Ikea at 7pm. The main Blame It On Bianca show is scheduled to start at 8.30pm.

The event is strictly 16+ and is currently sold out, with no further tickets planned for release at the time of writing. For direct show information, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

Bianca Del Rio is primarily known as the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 6, with her outspoken nature, caustic comedy, and razor-sharp wit quickly making her a firm fan favorite. Del Rio was further voted as the viewers’ favorite winner from Drag Race Seasons 1-6 in a poll conducted by Logo TV, the then broadcaster of the RuPaul show.

Bianca Del Rio solidified her competency and professionalism as a performer through iconic RuPaul challenges such as ‘The Snatch Game’ and the ‘Queens of Comedy’, with the show’s titular host saying of her stand up routine in the latter that not only did she “kill it,” she “murdered it”. This should give you a hint of the possible hilarity/havoc on its way to the Symphony Hall stage.

To open the night, FLUID Festival are presenting free pre-show entertainment ‘as part of Symphony Hall’s foyer events programme’ before the Blame It On Bianca Del Rio show. Soprano Alexandra Bork and pianist Nick Bonadies will be performing from 6pm, whose collaboration ‘focuses on opera’s heart-shatteringly high-diva moments to cabaret classics… and smashes down walls between classical concert halls and queer performance spaces. ’

Additionally, ‘international dance music DJ’ Lady Miss Ikea will be appearing from 7pm, playing a mixture of ‘the most glamorous deep, house, disco and wildest pop’ and getting the audience ready for the “clown in a gown” Del Rio.

And whilst self-proclaimed, “clown in a gown” only touches the surface of Bianca Del Rio, with costume designing, three stand-up comedy tours, numerous theatre performances, and film roles all under her belt. Del Rio was also the ‘first contestant in the shows’ history’ of the phenomenally popular RuPaul’s Drag Race ‘to make it through the entire competition without every placing in the bottom three for a challenge’ – with Del Rio’s ‘go hard or go home’ ethos also taking her recent Blame It On tour across Australia, Asia, South America, North America and mainland Europe before landing in the UK.

Not a bad list of accolades, let’s just hope she’s got some energy left. For as the queen of insult comedy has said of Monday’s event: “I hope you’re ready for some filthy, nasty, hateful humor because I’m coming to Birmingham with a brand-new comedy show”. Symphony Hall front row, you have been warned.

Bianca Del Rio brings her Blame It On stand up show to the Symphony Hall on Monday 30th July 2018. There will be pre-show entertainment from soprano Alexandra Bork and pianist Nick Bonadies, as well as a set from DJ Lady Miss Ikea in the Symphony Hall Foyer & Café Bar. For direct show information, including venue details and online ticket sales, visit www.thsh.co.uk/event/blame-it-on-bianca-del-rio

For more on Bianca Del Rio, visit www.thebiancadelrio.com 

For more from the Town & Symphony Halls, including venue details and further event listings, visit www.thsh.co.uk

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NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To sign up to NOT NORMAL – NOT OK, click here. To know more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK sticker campaign, click here.