Eastern Legends is a special show featuring Asian burlesque, cabaret and drag next Wednesday (27 Feb) at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern from performers collective The Bitten Peach. Dave Cross had a catch up with Lilly Snatchdragon to find out more.
Hi Lilly, what is The Bitten Peach?
The Bitten Peach is a series of Pan-Asian performance nights, originally in honour of the Lunar New Year, set up in response to the general lack of Asian representation on cabaret line-ups. The collective was founded by myself, drag queen sensation ShayShay and renowned burlesque performer Evelyn Carnate. The shows feature a stellar line-up of the UK’s legendary queens, kings and beasts of the Far East.
Where does the name come from?
The Bitten Peach takes its name from the Zhou Dynasty in ancient China (1000-500 BC). A story from the time tells of a Duke called Ling who was madly in love with his courtesan, Mizi Xia. One day while walking through the palace gardens, Mizi picked a peach and took a bite out of it. Upon finding that the peach was especially sweet, he offered it to the Duke and the two enjoyed the fruit together. As a result, “enjoying the pleasures of the bitten peach” became a euphemism for homosexuality. With a multi-sensory theatrical experience featuring the best of Asian burlesque, cabaret and drag, we invite audiences to bite the peach and taste the forbidden fruit…
What are the aims of the group?
It has long been a dream of mine to create an all-Asian show, mixing traditional arts with circus, burlesque, drag and other kinds of performance. Every year I have watched in frustration as numerous shows are advertised celebrating “Chinese New Year” (Lunar New Year is celebrated by many Asian countries), that have very few, if any, Asian performers, and are often filled with white faces sporting floral bathrobes or incorrectly worn Kimonos. ShayShay had already created the only show I knew of in London that celebrated Pan-Asian culture and performers, and we joked about how Lunar New Year meant playing the “count the white performers in bathrobes” game. We realised that instead of watching these shows happen and complaining about them, we could take over the major cabaret venues in London for the month and show everyone how it could, and should, be done. We brought Evelyn on board as she is not only an amazing performer, but also an incredible theatre director. Our aim was for the Bitten Peach to re-centre Asian voices and faces in these celebrations of our culture. We want the collective to have a broad reach, and represent as many facets of performance art as possible, and we’re excited to work with Asian performers from every part of the scene, including larger projects with Victoria Falconer (Fringe Wives Club, East End Cabaret).
Was there anything currently on the scene that inspired you in a positive way?
The Cocoa Butter Club was definitely an inspiration for us and our aims are similar – Pan-Asian performers are still very under-represented and under-appreciated, and we created The Bitten Peach to show that we are here: we are talented and powerful and absolutely deserving of recognition and respect. That being said, the Bitten Peach is not just for Asian performers – we want to celebrate and share our culture, so carefully selected non-Asian performers who have acts that show respectful appreciation will also be invited to feature in our shows.
What can you tell us about the show Eastern Legends at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern?
The Eastern Legends show is the third instalment of The Bitten Peach. Each show has a different “flavour” and this one will be a full variety show including burlesque (both neo- and classical), live vocals, drag and circus. What we wanted was to showcase the large variety of performance styles within the collective. We see so much stereotyping and boxing up of Asian culture in the cabaret scene, and while I play on them in my work, our shows are demonstrating that these stereotypes do not represent the breadth and variety of talent that exists.
And who is performing on Wednesday?
We have all three founders ShayShay, Evelyn Carnate and myself, dark clown Mx Tzo, double trouble ‘Twin and Tonic’ and the sensationally sexy Aurora Starr.
What else do you have planned for The Bitten Peach?
We have so many plans. Too many! We want to do theatre shows, newbie shows, raves, dance-offs… there aren’t enough months in the year for what the Bitten Peach can do.
Eastern Legends starring performers from The Bitten Peach is on Wednesday 27 February from 7pm to midnight.
Tickets from vauxhalltavern.com
The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, 372 Kennington Lane, Vauxhall, SE11.