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Classical Drag – HERE at Outernet | Review

To HERE at Outernet last night for the final events of Pride month with something very different from the norm. Classical music and drag performers are not something you would normally put together but conductor Oliver Zeffman, Creative Producer Jack Cullen and the team obviously thought this was a fusion just waiting to happen and so Classical Drag was born.

Classical Drag. Photo credit: Matthew Johnson.
Classical Drag. Photo credit: Matthew Johnson.

The evening, hosted by Sadie Sinner and Jonny Woo, is ostensibly a competition between drag performers performing in rather unexpected ways. Instead of their usual shows, at Classical Drag they are backed up by a full orchestra of LGBTQ+ performers and allies, performing classical pieces and being judged by a very professional group of judges: opera singer, Nicky Spence, and RuPaul’s Drag Race royalty Monét X Change and Thorgy Thor. The six kings and queens Barbs, Beau Jangles, Dinah X, Freddie Love, Snow White Trash and Vinegar Strokes were introduced, and each performed both a solo and, in the second half, a duet.

This was the real surprise of the night, as each of these performers produced something magical from the vast range of the classical repertoire. From Freddie Love’s rendition of Umberto Giordana’s ‘Amor ti vieta’ to Dinah Lux’s masterful performance of the Andante from Shostakovitch’s Piano Concerto No 2, this was an evening of sumptuous music and beautiful costumes – rather like a visit to Covent Garden. My highlight of the evening was Snow White Trash, who not only looked stunning but played a saxophone, clarinet, flute, piano, and even conducted the orchestras at one point.

As an idea, Classical Drag seems bizarre but really worked well. The audience was very mixed with those who wanted the classical, those who wanted the drag and those, like me, who wanted both – and I think we all left very happy with what we had seen and heard. My one minor gripe with the show was that it was quite long, and I think there are elements that could have been dropped to move it along at a faster rate. This is partly because of the venue. Whilst Here at Outernet is an amazing place, there was no seating for the majority of the audience, so we were on our feet from the moment we entered at 6:30pm until we left around 10:00pm. Probably fine for most of the youngsters out there but a potential strain for some of the older audience members.

All in all, though, this was a good night. We often forget just how much goes into being a drag performer. The hours spent perfecting the art, the times performing to a rowdy crowd late on a Saturday night, giving them everything you’ve got and getting little in return. That drive and dedication to the art of drag nicely mirrors the same drive and dedication to be an orchestral performer and it was lovely to see the two styles come together so spectacularly to produce something that will stay with me for a long time.

4 stars

Review by Terry Eastham

Contestants: Barbs, Beau Jangles, Dinah Lux, Freddie Love, Snow White Trash, Vinegar Strokes
Runway acts: Stealia Jobs, Le Fil, Orlando, Rhys’s Pieces, Oedipussi Rex, Aaron Manhattan
Dancer: Harry Alexander
Judges: Monét X Change, Thorgy Thor, Nicky Spence
Hosts: Sadie Sinner, Jonny Woo

The Classical Drag Orchestra conducted by Oliver Zeggman
Creative Producer: Jack Cullen

Centuries before shows like Ru Paul’s Drag Race, conventional gender norms were being subverted all over Europe in iconic opera houses, with performers exuberating sassy, extroverted opulence, dripping in jewellery and working the stage with sky-high wigs. Before ‘gay icons’ like Madonna, there were true divas like Maria Callas. Indeed ‘queerness’ and ‘camp’ have long had a home at the opera, and queer classical composers have been core to classical music for centuries, even if they were often unable to express their homosexuality and otherness outside of their music.

Classical Drag
Wednesday 3 July 2024
HERE at Outernet

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