Writer Yasmyn Nettle / Photographer Connor Pope
I recently came back to the UK after spending time abroad. My journey involved grumpy airport staff, turbulence, and long queues. So when I find out the theme for House of Allure’s Worlds Away show is a space flight, and that I am to be seated in something called “premium economy”, least to say, I’m nervous.
The drag cabaret nights run by House of Allure have taken place at various venues in Birmingham, including The Flapper and Missing. Tonight, they have sold out one of the largest venues in the Gay Village – The Nightingale.
Upon arrival, I’m shown to my seat by the beautifully donned and friendly HoA, all with matching outfits that rival Virgin Galactic. At my table, I find a glossy, in-flight safety mag, a snazzy printed ticket, and a glass of prosecco.
The audience is dressed to the nines, and I realise I may be underdressed for what promises to be an intergalactic gender-bend extravaganza.
The attendants are our opening act, setting the scene with a fun and super camp dance number. Then, a giant, glittering, pink, Vegas-style unicorn (our host Locques La Roux) towers over us. He strips and lip syncs to Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’. It is an energising performance to open our individual acts.
We are primed, strapped in, and ready to blast off.
Up next, Mama Mamba serves sushi realness, sizzling on stage. Mamba delivers a super sultry burlesque routine complete with the devilish performances she is best known for, this time stapling Ariel’s Prince Eric to her heart.
Royal Head of House of Allure, Dominus Von Vexo, presents their drag twist on Wacky Races with blink-of-an-eye outfit changes. A flash mob of twenty or so of Vexo’s dance students, including two on my table, jump unexpectedly onto the stage with belly dancing fans to complete the number.
Each performance includes bespoke background animations, videos, and sound mixing. There is no doubt this is a serious production. Most of their held props are made of cardboard – we also love a thrifty moment. There is the HoA’s spaceship robot Echo, who has no job by the end of the show because we are already so entertained out of our minds.
Lioness serves a believable Rick Sanchez cosplay, giving us cyberpunk rave fantasy, slime, and an accomplished dance routine utilising the entire stage.
The man, the myth, the legend, Manly Manlington has the best costume of the night, and Coheed and Cambria play as a soundtrack for this moody set. A bearded, caped, drag king, delivering a smooth lip sync performance, holding us hypnotised under that gaze. As he squares up to an epic fight with – you’d never guess – ‘Generic White Sci-fi Writer’.
This show’s sparkling talent does not stop for one minute. It is an onslaught of diverse and unapologetic queerness.
One thing did throw me off. When addressing the crowd between performances, the genders of the audience were assumed, called “gentleman” if bearded or masc and addressed as she/her if more feminine. This surprised me in a bad way because I can tell HoA performers are encouraged to be their authentic selves on stage.
While the show does attract non-LGBTQIA+ folk, House of Allure – please do not forget your trans and non-binary siblings in the crowd who fear being misgendered.
My discomfort does not last long as cute pink alien Lilly Snatchdragon bops out onto the stage offering her masseuse services. I could go for one too, but a blow-up sex doll is taken as a victim instead. Cuteness quickly descends into absolute madness – which the audience love – the pants rip off the doll to reveal a member, which Lilly, reminding me of a female praying mantis, makes light work of.
By the end of the performance, her customer is nothing but a deflated husk.
Lilly’s performance has the audience literally rolling out of their seats and is vulgarly fun.
Mama Mamba takes the spotlight for a second time. She has gone from underwater princess to a stunning glitter cowgirl – dancing and strip teasing to a compilation of songs including ‘Juicy’ and ‘Boss Bitch’ by Doja Cat.
Mama Mamaba shows the audience what nipple tassels are made for.
We move to a more serious portion of the night with two beautifully choreographed dances. The first is from Locques and Dominus, fusing elements of tango and contemporary. I would have chosen a different song, considering Todrick has his fair share of controversies. But the piece is delivered well, and the costumes are a divine fever dream I can only describe as ‘Gay fluorescent Roman warrior’.
Lioness is up on stage for a second time, with a contemporary and seemingly partly improvised dance piece based on the lonely comet Hayley. This will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but as seen earlier in the night, she is an accomplished dancer and shows versatility in style. My eye is constantly drawn to Lioness in group numbers as she commits so well to expressive storytelling.
The heat rises once more aboard our space flight as Coco Kink graces the stage. Her PVC-clad catwoman performance is eye-bogglingly hot. She pleases the crowd with an alluring strip tease, complete with cat-like licks and a good whipping.
Not quite sure what it had to do with our space journey, but I do not care one bit as she lip syncs to a sensual Sade number.
Last, but not least, we are introduced to the surreal green alien Ginny Lemon, a Midland’s dear and Ru-Paul drag race star. They are, of course, in character the entire time. At one point, as Dominus receives flowers from the crowd, Lemon leans forward to grab them – and jokingly bitches to their fellow performers about their lack of bouquet.
They sing live in their characteristic voice to a spacey version of Madonna’s ‘Music.’ It’s magic, the energetic leaps from one side of the stage to the other.
I also can’t go without mentioning the fabulous final dance number by House of Allure, in its entirety. The pink cyber-bot outfits look fantastic, adding to the closing performance of the night. They highlight reproductive autonomy, sexual health, cybersex, and queer sexuality. Each of the crew has a distinct personality.
A big thank you to Mimi, Amarise, and Lolita Lash for looking out for us throughout our travels. House of Allure is a balance of serious and silly, weird and wonderful performance, burlesque and cabaret tonight, all nodding to the sci-fi theme.
By the end, I was so exhausted from clapping, whooping, and respectfully goggling the beauty and talent of the performers I needed to take an emergency escape pod home.
House of Allure’s ‘Worlds Away’ @ The Nightingale / Connor Pope
For more from House of Allure go to www.instagram.com/_houseofallure_
For more from Ginny Lemon go to www.instagram.com/ginnylemon69
For more from Dominus Von Vexo go to www.linktr.ee/dominusvonvexo
For more from Mama Mamba go to www.instagram.com/mama.mamba
For more from Locques La Roux go to www.linktr.ee/locqueslaroux
For more from Afiyamia go to www.afiyamia.com
For more from Mannly Mannington go to house-of-mannington.teemill.com
For more from Lioness Lounge go to: www.instagram.com/lioness_lounge
For from Cocoa Kink go to wwwlinktr.ee/Cocoa_kink
For more from Amarise Andre go to www.instagram.com/itsamarise
For more from Lotlita Lash go to www.redbubble.com/people/Eyelasheye
For more from Lily SnatchDragon go to www.instagram.com/lillysnatch
For more from The Nightingale go to www.nightingaleclub.co.uk