Review: ParaPride, Stratford Circus Arts Centre

In the UK, 20% of individuals are considered disabled. In the LGBTQ+ community, this percentage rises to 40. Yet no fully accessible venue in London caters to LGBTQ+ and queer artists and audiences.

ParaPride is a new charity focused on normalising social opportunities and experiences for LGBTQ+ disabled people. Their show at the Stratford Circus Arts Centre for LGBT History Month highlights LGBTQ+ and disabled artists from Drag Kings and Queens to Aerial Dancers.

Drag Queen Son of a Tutu leads us through the night with her glamorous voice, jokes and titbits. Her energy keeps the audience warmed up and cheering between acts. Drag King Mark Anthony teaches us how to be a heartthrob and immediately has the audience falling for him. With style, confidence, humour and quick costume changes, he lip-syncs his way through, among others, Enrique Iglesias’s ‘Hero’ and Elvis Presley’s ‘Jailhouse Rock’.

The night’s King of Rock and Roll, Wheel Elvis, takes us back to Hawaii with a rendition of ‘Rock-a-hula Baby’, sparkling jumpsuit, gelled back pompadour and all. Wheel Elvis is the ultimate performer, fully immersing the audience in the soul and swing of the King.

Bedecked in feathers and sequins, Maria Hurtz jumps onto the stage. Despite having to tone down the dirty jokes for this 13+ performance, Hurtz finds plenty of ways to dazzle the crowd, teaching us how to sign along to the chorus of George Ezra’s ‘Shotgun’ and how to communicate in the North East using only vowels.

Ebony Rose Dark’s audio description of a song is something I had never experienced, but which should become more commonplace at concerts and shows to improve the experience for the visually impaired. Dancing along to Whitney Houston’s ‘I Learned from The Best’, she describes her movements and the emotions she wants to convey with them.

Poet Frankie shares some very vulnerable poetry with us, about the best times to come out and his struggle with his weight. Ballerina Frisk Lee showers the stage with elegance, dancing across the stage to Tchaikovsky’s ‘Nutcracker Suite’. It is a beautiful quiet moment, drawing our attention to every movement and shape she creates.

The powerful voice of Mzz Kimberley carries her from the back of the theatre to the centre of the stage as she belts out ‘I Know Where I’ve Been from Hairspray.

Justin Bond, Davina Star and Nikita Gold from Drag Syndrome, a collective of drag artists with Down’s Syndrome, serve hip thrusts and slaps with plenty of flirtatious cheek and attitude. The artists’ love of life and performance spills over into the audience. They are not only fantastic performers, but their infectious joy simply makes us want to join in.

Electro-pop glam rock act Galavant Garde sings deep songs about being in space and teaches us some things he learnt from NASA’s Instagram account. His shoulder pads are huge and his songs are catchy, with lines such as “I want to do you through your space suit” – ready for entry into NASA’s dirty-talk dictionary.

Mel Stevens of Aim to Fly becomes weightless, leaving behind her crutches to swing and twirl on aerial silks. The beauty of the story she portrays is one of passion and overcoming the many twists and turns life can throw at you.

Smashlyn Monroe brings the heat to the stage her burlesque fire show heating us up one more time before the end of the night. ParaPride put on a smashing evening, showing that disabled artists can be spectacular and that more needs to be done to create full accessibility within the LGBTQ+ culture and community.

Parapride played the Stratford Circus Arts Centre until 21 February. For more information, visit the ParaPride website.