Swagger, sex appeal and loadsa' LOLs
Joanna Whitehead is blown away by the swagger and smarts of the Pecs Drag Kings performance: The 80s Show
IMAGE: Stephen Allwright
After a particularly heavy weekend, I dragged my weary bones down Oxford Street to London’s Soho Theatre, dodging tourists and shoppers alike. By the time I arrived, I was broken. My companion, who was also involved in the aforementioned debauchery, was in a similar frame of mind. It was going to take something remarkable to lift our spirits. Fortunately, we couldn’t have picked a more magnificent event.
Pecs Drag Kings, a collective of Drag Kings performing “explosive cabaret variety shows for the queer and curious of London town”, formed in 2013. Their 80s Show promised big tunes, glamour and even bigger shoulder pads. As a child of the 1980s, I had a treat in store.
The performance, which aims to celebrate lost queer icons, such as Prince, George Michael and David Bowie, did so with aplomb. A selection of lipsyncs, tribute acts, dances and medleys brought these icons back to life with a defiant spirit we know and love. The Kings’ combination of attitude, exceptional comedic timing and rip roaring queer anthems proved to be an irresistible combination.
Highlights included the George Michael medley, performed by Thrustin Limbersnake, and a stunning group dance and lip sync to the classic new jack swing tune Poison by Bell Biv DeVoe which left me and my companion seriously hot under the collar. The comedy turn by John Travulva (the excellent Jodie Mitchell) left me with actual tears of laughter running down my face.
But, the show wasn’t just big hair and handlebar moustaches. In addition to the LOLs, the show successfully struck a delicate balance by discussing recent political events, such as the #metoo movement, and addressing issues such as racism, homophobia, sexism and the rise of conservatism. Drag King Cole’s Black Power piece was incredibly powerful and, at times, made for uncomfortable viewing, as it should. The Kings’ ability to incorporate these subjects into what is, for the most part, a fun and upbeat show, is a testament to their smarts.
Show Directors Celine and Temi said: "We were inspired to make the show during late 2016, when, in the course of about 6 months, we'd lost Bowie, Prince, and George Michael, voted for Brexit, experienced the ongoing atrocities of a Tory government, and America had just elected a right wing, racist, misogynistic, homophobic pig.
"We felt dispirited, and wanted to make something that would instead lift our spirits and channel some of that power and pride activists had in the 1980s.
"We also wanted to celebrate the queer icons we'd lost. We were really inspired by the gender-bending queerness of Prince and Bowie, and wanted to mourn them in our own unique way - drag king tribute acts, dances, medleys, and lip syncs."
As a queer woman, I took absolute delight in watching these accomplished Kings’ swagger, strut and play with the audience. The cheers and roars at this sold-out show indicated that I was in excellent company. With a smile on my face from beginning to end, the Kings’ proved to be the perfect tonic for my fragile body and mind. A sensational night.
Pecs: The 80s Show runs from 4-9 December. To buy tickets click here.
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