The Tuckshop 3 || Drag Show Review #7
Ah, The Tuckshop. The new home of Soho drag. The place I spend every other Monday evening, sort of wishing I was in bed, but having a camp old time nonetheless. Last night saw the special Halloween edition of The Tuckshop take over the Phoenix Artists Club (or Phoenix Arts Club, I’m still not entirely sure), and it was spooky and camp and everything anyone could have asked for. Had a whale of a time watching the hostess with the mostess HERR bring Meth, Ophelia Love, and Nawel to the stage.
Rather than doing a review in the order that the show went, I’m just going to go performer by performer because it’s a) easier and b) this is my review and I can do what I want.
Without any further ado then, HERR. It’s very hard to review HERR’s performances, because they are firmly planted in the valley of the ridiculous, and bordering on the forest of the insane. But in the best way possible. There is no-one doing what HERR does, and there’s a very good reason for that, because it takes a certain type of someone to think of those kind of ideas, and then execute them. Still following me? Exhibit A: her ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ number (which I believe was the final thing she performed, but we’re starting with it anyway). ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ is a song everyone knows, and is generally quite normal, no? Wrong. Imagine that song, cut with a woman’s voice explaining the phases of the moon, and the visual of HERR using jaffa cakes to demonstrate the different phases of the moon - finishing with her shoving as many of those tiny orange cakes into her mouth as humanly possible without choking. It is, without a doubt, camp as tits and completely bananas.
HERR actually opened the show with a number from Anastasia: ‘In The Dark of the Night’. Anastasia is a completely underrated film with an incredible soundtrack, and just the right amount of spook (Rasputin is terrifying without needing to be a Halloween character), and HERR performed the number with gusto. The second half of the show ended up having a very Harry Potter theme to it - the first time The Tuckshop had attempted such a thing - and HERR treated us to two delicious HP numbers. Well. The first was a lot more tenuous, but the second was definitely Harry Potter. Or Molly Weasley, to be precise. But we’ll get to that.
HERR’s first HP number was set to ‘Beware of the Dog’ by Jamelia (you see where this is going). Sidenote: I completely forgot the song, and spent so long this morning googling different lyric combinations until I found it. My Google search history is interesting. Anyway. Beware of the Dog. With added dog barking. It’s very hard to describe and honestly you need to see it to believe what it is like, because until you have seen a drag queen lipsync to a song, and dogs barking, you have not lived a life. The piece culminates in Lupin’s speech from HP3 (spoiler alert) when he turns into a werewolf. It was at this stage that HERR donned her cat ears and started crawling around the venue. As a werewolf. Hilarious in anyone’s book. The second number - all about the best Harry Potter character - I couldn’t tell you the name of the songs used. But they were fierce, and cut with several of Molly Weasley’s most iconic soundbites from the films, climaxing with her infamous ‘not my daughter you bitch’. Most excellent. One of my favourite HERR number’s, if truth be told.
On we go to Nawel. A performer I have had the pleasure of seeing prancing around on the stage many times before, Nawel is just wonderful with the most unique, angelic voice. I believe she took part in the last season of Not Another Drag Competition (RIP Her Upstairs), and whilst she was incredible then, she only gets better every time I see her. Last night she was dressed in the campest pink shirt dress and red fishnet stockings and looked so good it should have quite frankly been illegal. Taking to the stage as ‘painting the roses red’ from Alice in Wonderland played, Nawel sang the most beautiful version of ‘Heads Will Roll’. At least I think she did. I had to confer with Flynn because I didn’t know the song (if it’s not musical theatre or Schindler’s List, it’s highly unlikely I’m going to know it), but that would make sense. With the Alice in Wonderland theme. And it being Halloween and all. And she ripped the head off a teddy bear, red glitter flying everywhere. Anyway. Nawel’s voice has such a gorgeous, unique edge to it that I’m not exactly sure how to describe in actual words, but it is utterly beautiful and I enjoy hearing her sing so much. Ethereal? That doesn’t quite cover it, but if you imagine a Greek goddess walking through the woods and singing, that sort of puts you in the right direction.
Nawel’s second number involved everyone’s favourite thing: audience participation. Luckily, the audience had definitely had at least two vimtos and were feeling a little giddy, and combined with being a sort of musical theatre loving crowd anyway, joined in with gusto. That is twice I have used the word gusto now, I’m bringing it back. It’s an underrated word and deserves more usage. Anyway, back to Nawel. Taking to the stage with mic and ukulele in hand, Nawel treated us to a rendition of ‘Damn It Janet’ from Rocky Horror, with the audience joining in the bits she didn’t sing. If you’ve heard the song, you know the bits. If you haven’t, go and listen and then you’ll understand, I don’t have time to babysit. Oh, it was camp. I love a good singsong, and it was just fun. Nawel is so much fun, and also hilarious. In her own words ‘get drunk, and get dressed’. Now that is some wise wisdom that we just don’t see anymore.
Onwards, dear friends, to the foster mother of many drag performers on the scene: Meth. Clad from head to foot in black sequins, Meth looked incredible (as per), and treated us to two excellent numbers in keeping with the spooky theme. First - as part of the Harry Potter interlude in the second act - Meth gave us what is quite possibly her best number, and I say that only because I have so much love for Maggie Smith. She is an icon of our time and god knows what will happen to the world when she is no longer with us. Lets not think about that. (I actually just had to google and make sure she is still alive because you never can tell these days). Back to Meth. You’ve probably gathered by now that her HP number is centered around the iconic Minerva McGonagall - up there with Molly Weasley for best character - but it’s even better than that. Think McGonagall’s most iconic quotes and moments, including the magic moment in the final film where she orders the statues to protect Hogwarts because she’s always wanted to use that spell, and then imagine those soundbites mixed with Iggy Azalea’s ‘Fancy’. Yeah, that’s right. McGonagall and Iggy. It has to be seen to be believed.
Meth’s second number was her excellent and iconic Disney villains number - very apt for the theme and the season. Nothing spookier than a good Disney villains, and nothing spookier than a very tall lady in a bright yellow wig prancing around on stage. Incorporating Cruella De Vil, the wicked stepmother from Cinderella, and probably some others but I don’t remember them cut with the song ‘Trouble’ (although I couldn’t tell you who it’s sung by if I tried). It’s amazing, and works so well and I have so much time and love for that number. Meth is an incredible queen, and seeing her perform is always a total delight. Even if she is evil. And misery is her middle name.
Finally Ophelia Love. Ophelia Love as the (very big - there’s the one joke) phoenix rising from the ashes of her last Tuckshop shambles. And boy, did she redeem herself.
Taking to the stage first during the HP section, Ophelia performed her Hermione Granger mix which is, by the way, one of the best lipsyncs in my humble opinion, and complete with straw-and-tape wand made by Meth. Clad in fishnets, t-shirt, boots, and ‘styled’ wig, she somehow still managed to sell the character of Hermione despite being dressed in an outfit book Hermione would probably sniff at. Although I like to think deep down inside, Hermione Granger is a fishnet and t-shirt dress wearing kind of gal. The facial expressions alone sold the character, and it was a delight from beginning (on the train) to end (cursing Malfoy). Absolutely brilliant, Ophelia knows how to do Hermione like no-one else. Except, you know, Emma Watson.
She rounded out the show with three beautiful numbers, and for the first time in Tuckshops long, illustrious history, there were no tech problems! Just beautiful singing and excellent talent, and several lyrics being forgotten despite Ophelia definitely knowing what she’s doing. First up: Sweet Transvestite, in keeping with the Halloween theme. Because there is no other Halloween movie, clearly. Although it is the campest, and it does have an excellent soundtrack. An excellent song sung by a beautiful songbird, it got the crowd in the spooky mood for her second song - Money Money Money by ABBA from Mamma Mia. Tenuous at best, but justified by Ophelia as being good for the spooky season because money makes people do bad things. And well, she’s not entirely wrong. And everyone loves a bit of ABBA. Especially me. I love ABBA. And I especially love Ophelia singing ABBA, which I believe she has done every time I’ve seen her recently, and I hope she does it for the rest of time and eternity because it’s a bloody good song.
Her final number was - you’ve guessed it (well, you probably haven’t but go with it) - Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’. I will make jokes until the cows come home about Ophelia not knowing anything other than Purple Rain, but the truth is I do love it when she sings that classic. It’s a crowd pleaser, and one of those songs that just makes you feel good things and want to have a little bop and sway along. I love it, and it suits her voice so perfectly. An excellent way to finish an excellent night, with an excellent performer singing an excellent song (and the chance to pretend to be the purple rain. Camp).
The Tuckshop takes place every other Monday, and is hosted by HERR with a rotating cast of the Tuckshop babes and special headliners. If you’re in the area, get yourself there for 10pm. You fully won’t regret it, every performer is magical and I always have the best time.