BREVIEW: Dragpunk’s Ghoul School Grand Final @ The Nightingale Club 20.09.19

Words & illustrations by Emily Doyle

It’s a Friday night in September. The nights are drawing in, but it’s still mild enough to enjoy a cigarette on the balcony of Nightingales and watch life go by on Kent Street. Amber Cadaverous, dressed in white satin lingerie and draped in bandages, ushers the crowd into the venue for the Grand Finale of Dragpunk’s Ghoul School.

In July, Dragpunk opened applications for their contest to crown Birmingham’s first drag supermonster. Encouraging applicants from all backgrounds and styles, they stressed in the call out that this is a contest founded on learning and positivity, under the banner of ‘All Drag Is Valid’. In short, they’ve taken a lot more cues from underground hit Boulet Brothers’ Dragula than from Ru Paul’s Drag Race, in terms of values as well as aesthetic.

Both the heats of Ghoul School were well attended, but tonight it’s standing room only not long after the doors open. Plenty of competitors from previous heats have turned out to show their support. Lucius Blac, whose catholic-gothic aesthetic means he’d just as soon be referred to as ‘Father’ than as ‘Daddy’, is propping up the bar. Blac’s performances in heat two were whirlwinds of suave machismo, whether he was wearing a white suit and priest’s collar or a dishevelled clown costume. Sadly, this wasn’t his year – but most of the audience went home that night with pockets full of stickers proclaiming ‘once you go Blac, you don’t go back’ in an ornate blackletter typeface. Flanking Blac are fellow competitors Abel Valentine and The Vicar’s Daughter. Valentine won hearts in heat two with a playful lipsync to Smashmouth’s ‘All Star’. The Vicar’s Daughter, who’s heartfelt mime performance was a highlight of heat one, has fashioned an outfit for tonight out of one of her dad’s stoles, combining it with a barely-there bodysuit, sunglasses, and a fringed boater.

Waiting for the show to begin, heat one performers Cider Goblin and Frieda Brest are perched on the edge of the stage playing Pokemon Go. Cider lived up to their name and gave perhaps the messiest performance of heat one, scattering the stage with empty tinnies out of a bin bag during their lip sync to The Cramps’ ‘Garbage Man’. Frieda was responsible for a delightful chicken themed performance that same evening, it had a skillfully crafted mix featuring Lizzo’s 2018 hit ‘Boys’, but every time she said the word “boys” it was replaced with “chickens”. Often the simplest ideas are the funniest. Tonight, Frieda is here in their masculine alter-ego, Fred D’Coq, complete with a neon pink suit. Sitting in the front row along from them is Church of Yshee 2019 finalist Misty Fye, eager to show support for their partner in crime Glitter King.

Hosting tonight are Dragpunk’s own Lilith and Tacky Alex, a thoroughly odd couple who’ve got polar opposite dress senses and about a foot in height between them. Lilith, veiled in black lace and with eyeliner so sharp it would make Siouxsie Sioux’s eyes water, towers over Alex, who grins at the audience from under a pair of floppy rabbit’s ears and a smear of pink lipstick. The two heats were hosted by the baby of the group, Amber Cadaverous. After some outdated whispers went around the scene challenging the validity of a young queer woman hosting a drag contest, Paul Aleksandr took the stage at the beginning of heat two to make it very clear that as far as Dragpunk are concerned Amber’s place is on the stage. Beaming, Amber took the mic, ringing in the autumn with an enormous pumpkin costume. Paul, having affirmed his role as kindly-yet-creepy uncle of Birmingham’s queer community, returned to mopping up blood and other fluids between performances with an endless supply of blue roll.

The finalists tonight have been given three performance tasks each to determine the winner, who gets to take home a troubling trophy – one of Paul’s sculptures that makes use of a doll’s head and a liberal coating of glossy red paint. First, they’re invited to show off their skills with a narrative performance. Glaswegian queen Diana Morphine takes queues from Tim Burton’s campy classic Beetlejuice, strutting around in a black-and-white striped suit and flinging plastic cockroaches into the audience. Suzi Looz, who’s heat one striptease to Black Flag’s ‘Nervous Breakdown’ saw her booked for a show in London the following week by judge Mary Poppers, delights the crowd by disemboweling Boris Johnson (played with trademark swagger by Haus of Sauseej’s Christian Gay) before emptying a milkshake over his head.

Glitter King, who’s truly mastered comfy drag, cavorts around the stage in a Grumpy Bear onesie to Eiffel 65’s ‘Blue’. Sissy Punk invites Fred D’Coq to join her on stage for a deeply troubling performance, where dialogue from the episode of Always Sunny in Philidelphia where Frank Reynolds convinces the gang they’re eating human meat segues into ‘Truly Scrumptious’ from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, as Sissy appears to carve slices of deli meat of Fred’s glutes with a sadistic flair. It’s a word perfect lip sync that has the crowd in stitches. The most unexpected performance comes from Nottingham queen and cosplayer Wyntir Rose, who’s interpretation of a viral episode of Peppa Pig is inspired.

The Ghoul School contestants are then invited to perform a brief runway performance. Local comedy-drag performer Cosmic Crum takes the opportunity to show off an impressive silicone breastplate, while Diana Morphine keeps it classy in a floor length red ballgown. Sissy slithers out of a latex dress to reveal an acidic yellow bodysuit, a look that’s almost as delightfully trashy as the camo chaps she wore for her heat one lipsync to Vengaboys. The star of this round is undoubtedly Suzi, who gambols onto the stage in a tartan suit and snaps open a fan which bears the legend ‘TIPTON’. She writhes on the floor, fluttering it coquettishly, to delighted chanting from the crowd. At the time of writing, Suzi is listed as a ‘notable resident’ on Tipton’s Wikipedia page.

For the final act of the night, performers are simply given the brief ‘freakshow’ – surely an invitation for chaos from Dragpunk. Cosmic Crum steps up to the plate with a wonderfully hairy striptease which must have been the final fate of at least three purple wigs. Diana Morphine is a picture of android glamour, glitching and death dropping her way through a slick mix of electronic pop and looking like Barbarella turned up to 11.

Sissy Punk gives one of the night’s most heartfelt and political performances about her trans experience, culminating in some defiant, full frontal nudity to the sound of ‘Sweet Transvestite’ to the adulation of the judges and the crowd. Horror queen Melancholy, who in the last heat stapled a rubber mask directly onto her face and subsequently bled so much her false lashes melted off, takes the stage as the evening’s final act to hushed anticipation, before engaging in some neon clad needle play that is enough to turn even the strongest stomach. Judges China, Ruby Wednesday and Misty Monique retire to deliberate, and at this point it genuinely feels like anyone could win it.

After a short break, Diana Morphine is crowned the winner of Ghoul School 2019 to much deserved applause. Her consistency and variety won the judges over, so she now has the honor of taking the baby head trophy back to Glasgow – as well as hundreds of pounds worth of drag supplies from Give Face Cosmetics, What A Drag, Offend My Eyes, Morphe and Urban Decay and a paid performance spots with Dragpunk in the future. So, look out as this won’t be Diana’s last time in Birmingham…

For more on the Dragpunk Collective, visit 

For more from The Nightingale Club, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit 

‘I pick my way through the dressing room, stepping over debris from previous performances – a toy guitar, a picked-over sheet of stick-on moustaches, and a slowly deflating blow up doll. The front of my shirt is damp from where I tried to sponge out a pale purple stain from the Dark Fruits. I slip on my coat, grab my umbrella, and make for the stage with what I hope is an air of masculine confidence.’

Watch out for Emily Doyle’s Diary of a Short Lived Drag King, a 24 page A4 ‘zine recanting her own experiences of when she manned up and got on stage – with illustrations from Emily and photography from Eleanor Sutcliffe. 

Diary of a Short Lived Drag King will be available through Review Publishing from 30th September, click here for more details.


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 learn more about the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign, click here. To sign up and join the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign, click here.

If you have been affected by any of the issues surrounding sexual violence – or if you want to report an act of sexual aggression, abuse or assault – click here for information via the ‘Help & Support’ page on the NOT NORMAL NOT OK website.

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

For more from Eat Sleep Drag Repeat, including further event listings and online ticket sales, visit

For more on The Nightingale Club, including venue details and further event listings, visit


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.

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