A (Short) Guide to Some of London's Best Drag Nights || Part One
It's a poorly kept secret that if you want a good night out, to a drag show you should go.
I discovered this secret only around two years ago, when I stumbled across RuPaul's Drag Race on Netflix, like so many gays before me, and felt like I'd found my community. Moving to London was really the catalyst, as before that it had been hard to find a similar community confined as I was to the deepest, darkest English countryside.
But this is not about how to find drag. This is not even really about what drag means to me. This isn't even about Drag Race (which, I won't lie to you, is nowhere near as good as the drag you can find scattered across the country). This is about London drag, and it's the first in a series of posts outlining some of the best drag nights around - beginning with 3 incredible venues.
I've written about Her Upstairs already, in a post you can find here. I'm so biased, because it was the first cabaret-esque venue that I ever attended, and it holds a special place in my heart. The drag performers that frequent the venue are some of my all time favourites - Cheryl Hole, HERR, Ophelia Love, Tayce, Cara Melle, Flynn Rideher, Chiyo, Kitty Scott Claus, and many many more - and the nights I've been to there are some of the best around.
18 Kentish Town Road
- Themed Nights
Past examples include Pixor (a Pixar themed show), a Mamma Mia inspired show, an American Horror Story themed show, a show inspired by Scooby Doo, and many more. Presently these tend to occur on a Saturday night and cost upwards of £7.
- HERR Presents: Legendary Children
Artist in Residence of Her Upstairs,. HERR has a monthly residency on the third Thursday of every month, bringing you some of the brightest and best performers from the Her Upstairs scene. If it's anything like every other show I've been to hosted by HERR, it will always be ridiculously camp.. In fact, I know it is because I went to the last one. Bloody brilliant.
- Tuesday Pub Quiz
Taking place, strangely enough, every Tuesday, this is a camp old quiz night for you and a team of your pals to go an answer some questions and get plastered. Good stuff. It was hosted by Myra DuBois and Sooz Kempner, but they're about to head off to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival, so until they're back it'll be hosted by someone else.
- The Cocoa Butter Club
Happening on the last Thursday of every month, this is a night founded by Sadie Sinner and is a night that showcases and celebrates performers of colour. With different performers every time, it's a joyful club night with some of the best tunes around.
Technically a night that takes place in the sister club Them Downstairs (it's literally downstairs), this is the night for you if you want to combine clubbing with seeing some fierce performers absolutely turn it out. Often featuring queens like Tayce and Cheryl - who are two of the absolute fiercest dancers around. I've never been to a Bombshell night because I hate clubbing, but I hear it's good shit. Takes place every Friday.
- The Two Nancy's
Ophelia and Kitty's monthly residency - takes place every second Sunday of the month. A night of some of the best show tunes by two of the best singers. Kitty's rendition of Burn is always stunning, and Ophelia is generally fab. I've not yet managed to get out to this night because life hates me, but it's all I want to do.
- Not Another Drag Competition
You cannot mention Her Upstairs without talking about NADC. Hosted by Meth and taking place on a Monday, they're currently at the beginnings of NADC All Stars 2,. featuring some of the best talent from previous seasons. This competition is fab and has launched the careers of many a drag performer on the London circuit, and is a fab way to get your foot in the proverbial door, or to come along and find out about some great performers before anyone else. Hipster.
Her Upstairs do so much that this really is just a small snapshot of some of the nights that do occur on a monthly or weekly basis, but keep up with their Facebook to find out about all the other stuff they get up to. There's often one off nights on, they all feature incredible drag queens, and they've even been known to do a (ridiculous) panto or two.
THE ROYAL VAUXHALL TAVERN
One of the best known LGBT venues in London, this iconic bar hosts cabaret, club,. and general performance nights. Aiming to be welcoming to everyone, it's open 7 days a week and there's always something going on if you're at a loose end and don't know what to do. Another place where many in the scene have gotten their start, and a place where some of the biggest names come to perform, including Mary Mac and Myra DuBois.
372 Kennington Lane
- Bar Wotever
Takes place every Tuesday, it's a safe space that welcomes all manner of LGBT and queer performers. They tend to have one well established name host each month, and alongside welcoming some of the best performers in London to the stage, they encourage new talent to apply for one of the open mic nights. Many performers have begun their careers at Bar Wotever, or performed there during the early days, and many performers return.
- Sunday Social
You'll never guess when this night takes place. That's right, it's every Sunday! Hosted on alternate weeks by Mary Mac, Myra DuBois, or Charlie Hides, it's where to come if you're hanging out your arse still on a Sunday evening and need to a) drink and b) take your mind off it. Or just if you like drag, like hilarious queens, and like going out on a Sunday.
A new night but one I couldn't not mention, Woof is created by two of the best drag kings on the scene - Chiyo and Benjamin Butch. A night that's all about redefining sexy and showcases anyone who doesn't fit the general mould, the first line up is incredible. Soroya Marchelle, Rubyvy Jones, Zayn Phallic, and Rhys' Pieces, this night is really, really not to be missed. It's happening on Wednesday 8th August, and tickets are available here.
Check out the RVT website here to find more nights, and keep an eye out for future events.
An LGBT pub that also has a cabaret lounge and a basement nightclub, The Glory opened in 2014 and is founded by some of London's stalwarts - Jonny Woo, Zoe Argiros, Colin Rothbart, and John Sizzle. Hosting all manner of shows and nights, there's bound to be something happening that you'll want to go to. I believe the majority of the nights at The Glory are one off, or only happen once a while or w/e, but there's so much to choose from that's not even nearly a problem.
281 Kingsland Road
- Trashed! - 27th July
Hosted by Taylor Trash (London's trashiest drag queen), this is a camp old night filled with competitions, performances, and general silliness. The third show features Taylor with Knockout and Cassandra, and some of the trashiest tunes around. Free before 10pm.
- Werk In Progress
Another queer open mic night, this is now taking place every Wednesday, and is hosted by Xnthony. The place to be for any queer performer, this is a showcase of all things drag, song, spoken word, and more. August's run is a bit more special - it'll showcase some of the best talent from previous ;'Werk In Progress'', alongside having slots for new performers.
- Theresa May's Legs Akimbo: Hot Sweaty Brexit - 9th August
Following the sold out first show, Fagulous (one of the most ridiculous and best performers on the scene) is bringing back Theresa May's Legs Akimbo, featuring new acts and I assume even more ridiculous performances. At least I know HERR is booked to perform, and I've not yet seen her do anything sensible on stage. Go along if you hate our government and need a laugh.
- BOiBOX - 30th August
The relaunch of the acclaimed BOiBOX night back at The Glory. Hosted by Adam All and Apple Derriere, it's a night that showcases fantastic drag king cabaret, and has long been one of the best nights to go and watch some incredible kings do some incredible things on stage.
Keep checking The Glory's website for new nights if none of the above tickle your pickle, but make sure to get yourself to at least one. I promise you won't regret it.
There's so much more to London drag than what is featured above, but if I was to put down everything I love all in one post we'd be here all day, and quite frankly none of us have the time. I'll put out a few more posts in this series, detailing more venues and incredible nights you need to get yourself out for, but for now the above is a good start.