Words & pics by Eleanor Sutcliffe
Working as a music photographer prepares you for numerous things.
It doesn’t prepare you for drag queens cart wheeling into splits clad in platform heels and lingerie, or having a 10 inch silicone phallus thrown at you across the stage. Or being called a cunt in front of the O2 Academy’s sold out main room. It definitely doesn’t prepare you to find these things side splittingly hilarious.
Arriving at the O2 Academy, I was greeted with the most diverse, kaleidoscopic crowd I’ve ever seen. Groups of men and women snaked along the streets and up Bath Row as drag queens ran along the crowd, hugging fans and batting their false eyelashes while handing out Klub Kids flyers. Usually with any concert you can easily identify the standard show-goer demographic, but here it was simply impossible. Drag has no boundaries regarding its audience – clearly, anyone can enjoy it.
As the room filled up and the lights dimmed, I made my way to the front and sat in anticipation. Out onto the stage burst Andrew Hoyle, the head promoter for Klub Kids; exclaiming that tickets for their Twisted Circus tour were now on sale, he sold the room the show by promising “acrobats, and midgets, and acrobatic midgets” before welcoming on Bianca Del Rio.
Del Rio is what some people would describe as their worst nightmare – a six foot figure of immaculate makeup and savage wit, her comedy both hilarious and highly inappropriate for what was deemed a 14+ show. Within minutes of gracing the stage with her presence, she managed to insult at least half of the room. Girls filming the show were openly mocked, as Del Rio exclaimed that they would watch it at home whilst “flicking the bean”, much to their horror and to the sheer delight of their friends.
Not a minute later, I was branded an “utter cunt” by the queen herself for taking photos from an “unflattering” angle. And yet, none of us could stop laughing. Her humor was so dark, so abusive, so obscenely unaware of what was socially acceptable to say in a room full of a few thousand people, that you simply couldn’t help but find it utterly hilarious.
First up was Jackie Beat, as BenDeLaCreme was sick and not able to perform – according to Beat, this involved an altercation involving heels and stairs. Exclaiming how she would be combining “the two things gay men love most – Broadway musicals and sex”, she performed a smut smeared cover of ‘And I Am Telling You’ from Dreamgirls, followed by a hilarious rendition of ‘Baby Got Back’ by Sir Mix-A-Lot.
Next was Charlie Hides, who’s comedy was so quintessentially British that the whole room simply fell in love with her. Her humor, though scathing, was smart and witty. She described one drag queen as being “rather like Joan of Ark – creative ideas, but badly executed”, leaving the entire room in stitches.
As one of the few queens of the night that did not rely simply on sexual puns or insulting other performers, she stuck out to me as one of the highlights of the show. Her original song ‘I Don’t Care If You Think I’m A Bitch As Long As You Think I’m Thin’ was not to my taste, however that didn’t stop it going down a storm with the rest of the room; although to me musically she fell flat, I could have easily watched her comedy for hours.
Next was an interval performance by London and Manchester based dance group, House of Decay. Watching them twist and contort their bodies into shapes that I was not aware were even humanly possible, I was brutally reminded that I may need to work on my own personal dance skills.
As someone who avoids heels with a vengeance, I was in awe as they ran, jumped, cart wheeled and pirouetted across the stage in footwear that looked more like some sort of post-apocalyptic weaponry than anything that I would dare let grace my feet.
These guys have mastered every form of dance you can think of – from voguing, which involves quick and fluid movements using your hands and arms, to the aptly named Death Drop. This move is, in short, fucking terrifying. If Birmingham Review let me use GIFs in my write ups there would be one following this sentence, so I encourage you to go forth and Google, and be both impressed and distressed for a while. (Ed’s note… as far as I can see, the trick here is to not break your spine – Death Drop Compilation)
Now, the iconic Lady Bunny. One of the original Club Kids from 80s New York, she soon had the room in stitches as she joked about her age, claiming she’d be dropping dead any minute. Her performance was less high octane than those before her, and relied solely on poop humor, but still brilliant. I would be lying however if I said that I did not spend most of my time staring in utter bemusement at her wig, as it made up at least half of her height and did not move a millimeter throughout her set.
During her performance of ‘I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman’ by Britney Spears, she whipped out a 10 inch silicone penis and started flinging it around the stage like something possessed. It was at this point that I excused myself side stage and began contemplating my career decisions.
Following from this was Katya, who describes herself as “your average run-of-the-mill Russian bisexual transvestite hooker”. Bianca Del Rio describes her as “the rightful queen of Drag Race All Stars,” and as she writhed her way along the stage in thigh high lace up gold boots, it was clear why. Not only was her new stand up routine to the point and side splittingly funny, but her impressions of fellow drag queen Roxxxy Andrews was both horrific and hilariously accurate.
Finally, Alyssa Edwards strutted out on stage and launched straight into an energetic dance number to a mashup of songs including ‘Me Too’ by Meghan Trainor and ‘What You Know ‘Bout Me?’ by Nicki Minaj.
Within minutes she was climbing along the crowd barrier while House of Decay served as her backing dancers on stage. Describing herself as “Drag royalty” and promising a show to remember, she delivered just that.
Overall, Klub Kids’ Queens of Comedy Extravaganza show was everything I was promised and more; smutty, witty, and worryingly offensive at times, each performer commanded the stage as their own. I can’t wait to see more of them in the future.
For more on Queens of Comedy Extravaganza/Klub Kids, visit www.klubkids.co.uk
For more from the O2 Academy, including venue details and online ticket sales, visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2academybirmingham