One day perhaps someone will write a play about a drag queen where, beneath the frock and below the wig, above the high heels and under the layers of slap exists a man who is happy, contented, at ease with the world and not forever bitching about the profession he has chosen and who didn’t have a dysfunctional relationship with his father. There was La Cage aux Folles, of course, but until then we have Make-up.
Make-up needs a serious makeover.
Some writers and performers have explored this genre with great success and heartrending tales. Harvey Fierstein in Torch Song Trilogy probably tops the bill in that and closer to home and with a slightly stage character Peter Duncan gave us Dame. Unfortunately, this piece, written by Andy Mosely and performed by Moj Taylor for NoLogoProductions at the Rialto Theatre as part of the Brighton Fringe, doesn’t come close to either of those.
The format and the metaphor are standard for this type of show. Lady Christina does her final number to rapturous applause and enters the dressing room where over the course of the one-hander the make-up comes off and the costume is exchanged for a shirt and jeans, while the alter-ego converses in the mirror with real-life Christopher Laneghan. It had been yet another night on another stage at another pub where he has as much contempt for his audiences as he does for the next generation of drag queens. The big, if rather unsurprising question, is whether he can forsake it all and make a living without a frock.
After a very slow start, Taylor works his way into Laneghan’s past and reveals the mostly downs of his childhood; his father’s disgust at having produced such a boy, the bullying at school and the sad tale of his mother driven to deceit in order to see her boy after her husband had kicked him out of the house. He tells it with some emotion, but largely in a gloomy monotone, statically ensconced in his chair amidst a spartan set, wearing an understated costume.
The piece is undoubtedly well-intentioned and a heartfelt attempt to reveal what lies beneath the surface of so many performers, but there is absolutely nothing new here. Make-up needs a serious makeover.