The Drama Queens are the award-winning drag theatre company and they are back in a new home, at Pulse, and with a new show at the end of the month, Theatre of Queer’lesque. We had a chat with co-founder Spike Rhodes and long time member Daniel O’Donnell, aka Morag McDuff, to get a bit of history and find out about the new home and show.
Hi Spike and Daniel, can you give us a brief history of The Drama Queens?
Daniel: The Drama Queens was founded in 2009 by Spike and Titti La Camp to fill the void after acts had competed in Drag Idol to further their experience and career in drag work.
Spike: We started at the Black Cap and we wanted to create a kind of ‘drag stage academy’, open to everyone who wanted to learn and develop both stage and drag skills, whilst working alongside professional artists, some of whom had performed with Lily Savage, Regina Fong, David Dale, Adrella, Lee Paris and many more. The company produces four or more full scale productions each year has an open door entry policy with casting workshops for each show.
You have been away for a while, but now you’re back at a new home, Pulse – how did that happen?
Spike: After having to leave the Black Cap we were ‘adopted’ by big hearted Jimmy Smith and relocated to the Two Brewers. It was a ‘temporary stay’ which turned into three wonderful award-winning years for the Drama Queens, which we’re very grateful for. With the closing of venues it was hard to find a new permanent base for the company but I approached Mark and James at XXL who were very enthusiastic about the idea of housing a drag theatre company at Pulse. It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind over the last few weeks, with the company getting used to such an incredible space, with an LED wall for back projections, a fantastic lighting rig with own tech operator, plus a huge stage. We couldn’t have wished for more and we are very grateful to Mark, James and all the Pulse crew for their wonderful support.
Daniel: The Drama Queens are going XXL and we really mean it. It is one of the largest spaces we have ever performed in and we are all really excited to show the world how we can bring bigger shows in a bigger venue.
You are working on your new show now – how are rehearsals going?
Spike: Fun as always and quite challenging as we get used to the wonderful space and work to maximise the facilities on offer. The aim is to raise the production value of the show beyond anything we’ve ever done before. Mrs Moore and Tanya Hyde, my co-directors, and I are like kids in a candy store. We are really excited and can’t wait to throw open the doors to show off our new home.
Daniel: We have a new, sparkling cast to work with and some familiar faces everyone knows and loves. The mixture will be a breath of fresh air for the upcoming debut show.
What can you tell us about the show?
Spike: Theatre of Queer’lesque is an uplifting tribute to some of the heroes and legends of our LGBTQI history. It’s a show about a repertory theatre company with drag artists set in a theatre due to be demolished. Before the bulldozers roll the theatre’s queer ghosts reunite to perform once more. There’s a Bloolips styled band, we mix alternative and old school drag styles in with club freaks and queer legends, with a few musical creations of key moments from 50 years of our fight for equality. Plus in act two we will premiere the first part of my musical version of Quentin Crisp’s life story. It’s something I’ve wanted to write for some time – I actually wrote to the man himself asking for his blessings, back in the day.
Daniel: Queerl’esque celebrates everything LGBT in this year of the anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality 50 years ago. Lots of laughs and tears to be expected.
What are your plans for The Drama Queens after this show?
Daniel: Going forward we have a Halloween show planned and a panto in the pipeline. Next year we plan to surprise and delight our fans with a great new programme of shows at our new fantastic venue.