This Friday the UK’s most dangerous woman, Tracy Barlow, winner of Drag Idol 2017, is being let out on day release to bring her unique brand of ‘entertainment’ to the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. To find out more, we sent in a brave young reporter, (unnamed for security reasons) to meet Tracy and try and uncover more evidence – sorry, details – about this show.
The gates of the Paul O’Grady Maximum Detention Centre for Animal Offenders are heavily guarded to say the very least. Webs of barbed wire cascade down towering walls, flanked by colossal bronze statues of Buster and Olga glowering imperiously from above as my armoured transport rolls through the security check-point.
The guard on duty, laden with heavily-loaded Heckler & Koch, is handed a form; the name ‘Barlow’ flags up as his eyes widen and dart to me – who could pull enough strings to arrange a private interview with Britain’s most wanted woman?
I am led down cavernous stairways, past cells of quivering inmates, into a bunker named ‘Savage Row’. I’m told ‘do not touch the glass; pass nothing but soft paper; no pencils or pens; if she attempts to pass you anything do not accept it,’ before the guard stops abruptly: I am on my own now. Stood patiently, behind inches of anti-ballistic glass, is Drag Idol UK Winner 2017.
‘Good morning,’ she says from behind her muzzle. ‘You’re one of Dave Cross’, aren’t you?’ My mouth is dry as I catch glimpse of her legendairy milky eye.
‘Tracy, I was wondering if you could tell us a bit about your upcoming community service?’
‘Ah yes – Tracy Barlow Cleans Up Her Act.’ She rolls her eye. ‘More like Tracy Barlow Saves PopHorror’s Arse!’ Tracy’s accent, rumoured to be like other parts of her, is unnervingly thick. ‘Listen pet, tell that professional pillow-biter Jim Lavender he can do one! He told me if I won Drag Idol I’d be out of here and on Good Morning Britain! The best they could do is a reduced sentence and a community outreach programme for the morally impaired, so we’re at the RVT on the 17th!’
In alluding to her caseworker, the failed actor Jim Lavender, Tracy’s famed fury is apparent.
‘I’m stuck in here and that Ginny Lemon’s been on the flippin’ X Factor? Are you joking me? Now there’s being an unapologetic serial killer and then just being inappropriate for a mainstream audience.’
I catch sight of a large map of the world that Tracy has been allowed in her cell, plastered with photos of Worcester’s own Drag Idol runner-up-extraordinaire, Ginny Lemon: there are strings connecting scribbled notes ‘SIGHTED IN AUGUST’ and newspaper clippings ‘HIDEOUS X FACTOR AUDITION’.
‘What has it been like since you won the competition, Tracy? Has life changed?’ She takes a deep, violently unenthusiastic sigh before adopting something of a monotonous drawl: ‘Well what can I say? It has just been a dream come true… so many opportunities and experiences have come my way that have left me lost for words… I am just so grateful that people let me, a syphilitic homicidal cannibal-zoophile, share all the joy, love, and laughter that is in my heart…’ she snaps out of it: ‘Is that the soundbite you’re looking for, pet?’
‘What can we expect to see at your show at the revered Royal Vauxhall Tavern on the 17th?’ I ask, fearing we have veered slightly off-topic into a danger zone.
‘Well, not many people know this about me, but these hands of mine can do more than just tear out the throats of people who take too long at the self-checkout and push prams down the escalator at Canary Wharf tube station! I will be taking to the keys and bashing a few out, so to speak, giving the London cabaret scene what it so desperately needs at the minute: more inclusion of ivories and ebonies! My caseworker Mr Lavender had the cheek to offer me his services as an accompanist but I thought the spectacle of him being able to play piano while his head is lodged so far up Vanity Von Glow’s arse would be distracting. If you’re into that kind of thing, however, you can catch them together sometimes in Soho at the Phone-In Artist Club.’
As the guard at the end of the corridor taps on his watch I realise my time with the acceptable face of millennialism is drawing to a close:
‘If my track record is anything to go by, it is going to be an amazing show, if not life-changing. Live music, dancing dogs, award-winning acts, audience torture – I mean – participation… what more could you want? And you know what they say: tell all your friends but rave to your enemies!’
I am escorted out of the building as quickly as I had come, and as the concrete tower of Tracy Barlow’s current residency faded further out of sight in my rear-view mirror I took heart now knowing that she is so much more than a woman: she is a shameless contrarian in an age of hyper-hypocritical social and political puritanism the likes of which this world has never seen.