The audience erupts into raucous laughter and whooping: Dragtime is back with a bang!Dik Ng with permissions for Varsity

“Love in the first degree” resonates throughout the theatre as the excited audience members file in. A slow fade to blackout. The audience erupts into raucous laughter and whooping: Dragtime is back with a bang!

As a self-proclaimed Rupaul’s Drag Race connoisseur, yet a complete Dragtime novice, I was intrigued as to what Dragtime: Simply the Rest would entail. Walking into the theatre, I was immediately struck by the glimmering glitterball suspended from the ceiling in true Strictly Come Dancing style. I was met with a vibrant and inclusive atmosphere, a range of talented performers, fabulous costumes, and an overwhelmingly positive atmosphere. With the impending threat of week 5 blues, this show is undoubtedly a must-see.

Unlike previous shows, this Dragtime doesn’t have an overarching theme, although the charismatic presenters Charlene Collins and Psoriasissy were keen to emphasise that this was not a Tina Turner tribute show, as the pun-filled title suggested. Instead, each performer was able to showcase their eclectic mix of individual style and talent, enthusiastically cheered on by an electric audience.

The opening number was a group performance to Proud Mary - initially a raunchy and slowed down version, until the stage was bathed with pink light and Sexy Lady burst on wearing a bold leopard print bikini. This dynamic shock-factor is a motif that ran throughout the entire show. As soon as Juno Watt was announced, I certainly wasn’t expecting him to flaunt around in a Hawaiian T-shirt, lip-syncing to Love Island entrance videos. Nothing could have prepared me for Emmanuel Labour’s ode to milfs, which started as a seemingly serious piece of spoken word, but rapidly descended into the audience loudly singing along to the lyric, “I love her Marks and Spencers clothes!” The creativity and commitment of each performer was truly commendable, and rightly appreciated by the crowd.

“Each performer was able to showcase their eclectic mix of individual style and talent, enthusiastically cheered on by an electric audience”

What makes Dragtime unique is the effortless improvisational aspect of the show. It was somewhat endearing to see the hosts slightly fumbling with their thank yous at the end, overcome with the joy of a wonderful opening night. Furthermore, their interaction with the audience was truly ingenious: the entire theatre cackled as Charlene Collins called out some hecklers in the second row and Psoriassisy conducted a live poll for their new drag name, proving that each performance of Dragtime will offer you with a different experience.

Beyond the natural comedic style (“I’m not built for cross country, I’m barely built for cross dressing” - a personal favourite joke), the show provided everyone with some serious ‘wow’ moments. People’s mouths were agape as Psoriasissy performed a sultry pole dance. Although, perhaps the most wig-snatching performance of the night came from Twink Again, who commanded the stage so expertly that I can hardly believe it is his Dragtime debut. As music from Chariots of Fire began to play, I caught a glimpse of Twink Again dressed as a sperm, slowly wiggling his way down the stairs through the audience, rendering everyone speechless. His performance was profoundly cinematic, from the moment when he descended into passionately lip-syncing to “I’m Just Ken”, to when his arms finally broke through his white apparel - I never knew that the story of a sperm could evoke such intense emotion.

“Nothing could have prepared me for Emmanuel Labour’s ode to milfs”

Dragtime gives queer performers the opportunity to authentically and unabashedly express themselves, and the genuine delight which each performer took in their acts was truly inspiring. Justa Knight’s combination of spoken word and song was particularly profound, providing a commentary on the role of drag kings within the drag scene, as well as emphasising the importance of representation for local performers. They powerfully wielded a sword and placed a crown on their head as they spoke about the marginalisation of drag kings from normative ideas surrounding masculinity and femininity, and the view that performing as a male would be ‘boring’. Furthermore, my eyes were opened to the realities of local drag, as the drag scene that most people imagine is formulated from the aesthetics and competitive aspects of shows such as Rupaul’s Drag Race, which focus too heavily on beauty and polish, rather than the grit and edginess which you can get from local artists. Charlene joked that not so long ago, the only real exposure to queerness and drag in Cambridge was through going to Glitterbomb, so the representation which Dragtime can give is fundamental.


Mountain View

Constellation Street doesn’t take any wrong turns

The show had the expected roughness of opening night, with inevitable awkward silences and a slight lag in energy towards the end of the final number, but this all fell to the wayside as the audience shouted their support for each performer, which was particularly emboldening for all the debut artists. I left the theatre feeling genuine euphoria from the privilege of being able to watch such a radiant and powerful show, and I encourage anyone who wants to feel the same to run and watch it.

Dragtime: Simply the Rest is showing at the ADC Theatre from until 17 February.