Words & illustrations by Emily Doyle
The O2 Academy stage is decked out like a big top in preparation for The Twisted Circus, as Klub Kids are bringing seven world class drag performers to Birmingham. The show is late to start due to traffic on the M5. The audience are eager but good natured, and happy to pose for the charismatic photographer perching on the crowd barrier.
A troupe of dancing clowns starts the proceedings, and the compere arrives. Andrew wears a tasseled ringmaster’s jacket. Our host makes no bones about the fact that the event is running late, ditching the banter and even the interval so that all the performances can run. His “the show must go on” attitude is admirable, and results in a fast paced evening. In a venue as large as the O2 Academy, an interval is no great use to the crowd anyway – a trip to the bar means losing your hard earned space near the front.
Farrah Moan is the first queen to perform. The twenty three year old starlet also got the memo about the circus theme, wearing a red basque complete with knee length tails. Her lip sync performance is sedate and elegant, though in a venue this size it feels a little low energy. She does cut a stunning figure on stage, though, and her fans seem delighted.
Putting in a performance that is most definitely big enough for the back row, is Milk. Fresh from appearing on the latest series of Ru Paul’s Drag Race All Stars, Milk performs a salacious lip sync to Barbara Streisand’s, ‘He Touched Me’.
Her second turn sees her nail a full routine to her own song, ‘Touch the Fashion, Change your Life’, complete with backing dancers and giant inflatable hands. Milk bounces around the stage in a frilly Bo Peep dress, and she is a joy to watch. In a line-up of queens who take their performances very seriously, Milk is a breath of fresh air.
South Korean/American drag queen, Kim Chi, gladly fulfills her billing as a ‘live action anime star’ with her otherworldly looks; her regal performance style and large flowy outfits command the stage. Her second lip sync sees her draped in black sequins with a large feathered headpiece. Statuesque, Kim Chi looks like a cross between Maleficent and the forest spirit from Princess Mononoke.
Central to the show is world-renowned Cher impersonator Chad Michaels, who performs a flawless lip sync to ‘Woman’s World’ and ‘Strong Enough’. Michaels wears a shocking blue peacock outfit and backs up her performance with live footage of Cher wearing the very same. Smart, as many of the audience members are too young to properly remember Cher. Celebrity impersonation feels a little dated among the more avant-garde performers on tonight’s bill, but Michaels carries it off with a smile and delights in judging an audience dance off.
Perhaps one of the most anticipated queens of the night is Violet Chachki. The Drag Race Season 7 winner waltzes on stage in a pink showgirl costume, complete with top hat, cane, and enormous skirts. She treats the audience to an enchanting lip sync to her new single, ‘A Lot More Me’. The burlesque striptease ends with Chachki posing in gold thigh high boots and a thong. She keeps the hat on.
Next from The Twisted Circus is Shea Couleé, showcasing the nights most impressive choreography with a routine to the new single, ‘Cocky’, from her Couleé-d EP. She struts across the stage in a retro-futuristic lime green catsuit and rectangular sunglasses. Her performance is pop star perfect. Over the electro beat, she spits such inspired lyrics as: “Ms. Couleé gon’ be a legend/but congrats ’cause all dogs go to heaven.” On the studio version of the track, fellow Chicago queen The Vixen has a verse. If this is the company she keeps, The Vixen is definitely one to watch on the new series of Drag Race.
Our host, Andrew, takes great pleasure in introducing The Twisted Circus’ next star on stage, “the most expensive body in the world, Amanda Lepore”. Lepore’s attitude is pure punk rock. She comes out to her own track, ‘Buckle Up’, which quickly morphs into a listless rendition of David Bowie’s ‘The Jean Genie’.
Lepore seems well-aware of her status as more of a living sculpture than a performer. She wastes no time in stripping down to pasties and holdups, and basks in the spotlight. Lepore is later joined on stage by Farrah Moan and Violet Chachki for an impromptu routine to ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’, where the three of them are luxuriated in rhinestones and furs.
When The Twisted Circus finally drops the curtain, just before curfew, it’s hard to believe it was all packed into ninety minutes. But despite the delays, all tonight’s performers and the team at Klub Kids pulled through and delivered a fabulous evening. One that neither motorway traffic nor the ever-present threat of more snow could stop Birmingham coming out to enjoy.
For more on Klub Kids, visit www.klubkids.co.uk
For more from O2 Academy Birmingham, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2academybirmingham