Writers and Performers: Ginny Lemon, Yshee Black, Fatt Butcher, Midget Bardot and Ms Sharon Le Grand
The West End’s first ever drag season has finally arrived in the form of a two-week residency at The Garrick Theatre that offers a range of productions featuring Britain’s leading drag talent. The season is produced by Tuck Shop, one of the UK’s leading drag-based production houses, most notable for their West End, drag-meets-Agatha-Christie show, DeathDrop.
Tuck Shop West End is, in essence, a transfer of their successful drag review Tuck Shop Live, transported to a West End theatre. Tonight’s inaugural production Ginny Lemon and Friends follows a standard two-act drag review: each performer comes to stage, does their act, and introduces the following performer. Part two… repat of part 1.
Leading the charge is the eponymous Ms Lemon, looking like Kathy Burke, in Gimme Gimme Gimme, dressed as an orange Christmas tree. Probably most known for walking off RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, Ginny Lemon is a strong and confident performer, something we didn’t really see in her TV role. She opens the show with one of five self-penned tunes which she sings live during the show. Her musical style is an odd blend of Reggae DanceHall and Electronic Punk and, whilst the songs may not immediately have one running to Spotify for repeat listening, they are remarkably catchy. Her performances are interspersed with stand-up comedy, that offers more than a passing nod to Su Pollard and plays well with her somewhat eccentric look, but is rather at odds with her musical taste.
Yshee Black, is the only performer of the evening to lipsynch and kicks of her first performance with a Patti LaBelle inspired, take-me-to-church, gospel number that takes the roof off the house. Her second number, a mash-up lipsynch to I Am Telling You, from Dreamgirls, is equally emotive, though slightly less successful.
Fatt Butcher picks up the reigns and suddenly things start moving slightly more adult in mood. Draped in red and yellow, looking like a collection of Spanish flags, they take a series of almighty sniffs of poppers (amyl nitrate) before launching into a wonderful Jazz rendition of Atomic Kitten’s Whole Again.
Midget Bardot (who looks like she sounds) would probably never appear on TV and should be introduced with an R18 warning, is the star of the evening. For those who can stomach her raw and honest performances she delivers a reading about how porn influenced her sexual desires, and then a song ostensibly called Piss, Cum, both of which make the audience laugh, blush, shriek and, in some cases, walk out.
Ms Sharon Legrand ends the performance roster and delivers a strong, fun stand-up and song combo, the highlight of which is a rendition of Rod Stewart’s Handbags & Gladrags, rewritten with the only lyric being the word Handbag (it’s funnier than it probably sounds).
The ensemble gives strong and engaging performances that, in all probability, are no difference to their regular club performances. Being in a theatre, the overall audience engagement is significantly more muted than it would be in a club, though that doesn’t appear to impact the performers. If there’s any complaint about the night, it’s that the sound system seems to be cranked up to 11, so anyone would be forgiven plunging fingers into their ears while some of the performers are giving it their full Maraiah!
Overall, Tuck Shop West End is a highly entertaining, and varied night of drag cabaret, performed by a range of talented acts. As in a good variety performance, there’s something for everyone’s tastes, and the overall show leaves everyone feeling well served. If this is indicative of the rest of the season, it should be well worth a night out… but be warned, it’s likely to include some very adult language and humour.
Runs until 8 August 2021