Who can resist a bit of drag? Fun, flirty and full of classic musical hits, Drag Me to Love is a short but sweet production recounting star and writer Cameron Sharp’s personal journey to drag. At times (river) deep, soaring (mountain) high, Sharp’s coming-of-age tale proves that, despite all adversity, he will survive.
Produced and performed by Newcastle-based theatre trio, Bonnie and the Bonnettes, Drag Me to Love explores gender, identity and sexuality as part of the Camden People’s Theatre’s festival of queer, trans and non-binary theatre.
It’s Doncaster, 2009; Sharp is 14 years old, top and tailing at a sleepover, wondering who he really is – as all adolescents do. He spends all of his pocket money travelling into town to a local drag bar, collecting glasses to earn his keep, until finally he’s granted a spot on stage. In a flurry of neon wigs, fishnets and glitter, Bonnie Love is born.
It’s navel-gazing by nature, but very inoffensively so. Sharp’s story is touching, full of teenage yearning and discovery. And, at just 45 minutes long, the snappy performance refrains from over-indulgence.
Fellow Bonnie and the Bonnettes co-founders, Hattie Eason and Becky Glendenning, have equal stage time but take more supporting roles as the various people Sharp encounters on his path (finally, as themselves). Eason powerfully belts out the songs to which Sharp lip-syncs while Glendenning performs a memorable ribbon dance. Dressed in uniform wigs, dramatic makeup and sparkling clothes, the trio present a colourful united front against the world.
We delve into the making of a drag queen; the do’s and don’ts of drag performance art, how a drag queen should carry herself and the process of beautification. Though the overall feel of the play is positive and uplifting, there are brief moments in which Sharp grapples with self-doubt and insecurity. This is one of the play’s strengths; it is refreshing to see a drag artist’s vulnerability and personal development, rather than simply the fabulous, self-actualised queen onstage.
It is by no means a polished production. Many of the gags derive from the play’s (semi-cultivated) slapdash nature; an over-zealous toss of sequins or haphazard dance routine. At times, it feels like you’re watching a few friends have a laugh on stage. But in many ways, this is the charm of it; it is funny, whimsical and light alongside being a testament to the empathetic performances.
Overall this is an enjoyable performance. In its short running time, it packs a punch and leaves the viewer on a buoyant note. I, for one, listened to the Weather Girls the whole way home.
Photo: Chris Bishop