Drag Becomes Her: A Strange Sense of Sisterhood
Drag Becomes Her is the latest parody performance from Peaches Christ and company. This sparkling showcase features big names from Ru Paul’s Drag Race alongside a skeleton cast of fledgling Queens. Together, they celebrate tongue-in-cheek amateur dramatics for a screaming crowd of superfans.
I was slightly worried, having not seen the cult movie on which the show is based: Death Becomes Her. Would the subtlety of the homage go over my head? But there is nothing subtle about this production. This is pure pantomime (with infinitely better hair and make up).
The semi-autobiographical story of two rival Drag Queens is sewn into a plot of marriage, magic and immortality. Punctuating the show are a few choice comedy songs, that amplify the camp factor ten-fold. The lyrics, deftly written by BenDeLaCreme, are sharp and witty - a real highlight.
At the end of the day, these Queens are not actors and never claim to be. So to judge the show in strict theatrical terms would be inappropriate. The cast and crew behind this production know their target audience and target them with abundant precision. Drag Becomes Her is one massive in joke for Drag Race fans.
A lot of the Ru Paul references are too niche even for binge watchers of the show, but there is always someone appreciative in the audience. Stepping beyond the bounds of referential comedy, often the ad libs bring the biggest laughs. Indeed, a sardonic comment about Jinkx being “an excellent physical comedian” verbalises what the whole theatre is thinking. As a pair of corpses, Jinkx Monsoon and BenDeLaCreme shine. The pair rightfully stand in the spotlight throughout, captivating the audience where the plot or production value often fall short.
I have often been uncertain of my feelings towards drag and the unfair proclivity of many drag performers for highlighting negative aspects of femininity. Yet, I came to HOME with an open mind, ready to be convinced otherwise. For the most part, Drag Becomes Her light-heartedly side-steps the mention of gender entirely, focused instead on fanning flamboyant egos for comic effect. Unfortunately, there is a notable exception: at a party beyond the grave, we are served up a pair of carnivalesque portrayals of Amy Winehouse and Anna Nicole Smith. From where I was sat, these caricatures add very little to the show but a sour taste.
Having said that, this drag show offers a strange notion of female strength. Despite an all-male cast, there is just one male character featured: Major Scales plays Ernest as a convincingly weak and snivelling male specimen. Meanwhile, Jinkx and “DeLa” vie for the spotlight, eventually realising the strength of sisterhood (in their own, roundabout way). The lead pair are fabulous, flamboyant and fashionable - their drag is a celebration of outfits I can only dream of wearing.
Ultimately, Drag Becomes Her is a platform for audience members to come face-to-face with their TV superstars. The cast offer a hint of humanity as they embrace corpsing and drive through the narrative towards the grand finale. The moment the fans are really waiting for comes after the final curtain: the personal touch. Crafted as something akin to an awards acceptance speech, the cast step out from behind the translucent curtain that veiled their performances. Peaches Christ leads a series of thanks, praise and insights into relationships behind the scenes. There is a palpable impression of intimacy, quite ironically from these Queens who we only ever know as characters. After more than an hour on stage, this is the pinnacle for all reality tv fanatics.
The show is touring until June 1st. Book tickets at Soho Theatre.