Review: Dragtime

Cait Findlay 27 January 2017

Dragtime’s promotional material promised “pure, unadulterated, glitter-covered smut”, and it certainly delivered on all of those points (although I would contest to what extent barely-there underwear and suggestive dance moves could be considered ‘pure’). With more pastel wigs and contoured breasts than you could twirl a dancing ribbon at, it was loud, it was proud, and it was fabulous.

The premise was simple: a troupe of drag kings and queens have been frozen in time in a bar called “The Gaypole”, until one day in 2047 when an unsuspecting girl manages to unfreeze them. Cue a camp choreographed group performance to the Rocky Horror Show classic, ‘Time Warp’, and the show was well underway, beginning with a sassy and sexy burlesque-style performance that was cheeky in both senses of the word.

The show had a few small glitches, including a few moments of stumbling with lines and lip-synching, but the main issue was that the time-travelling premise seemed a little unnecessary. Interludes between the high-energy individual acts didn’t seem to add much to the performance as a whole, beyond merely demarcating a transition, and it was clear that the audience was impatient for the next drag queen to take to the stage and strut their stuff. And the way some of them strutted was incredible, given their dramatically high heels and demanding dance routines.

That said, the context did explain the political undercurrent to many of the acts, including a parody of ‘Let it Go’, where the lyrics were replaced with a deep male voice expressing frustration with Brexit and current affairs. Another act had a drag queen dressed as a sexed-up Theresa May, who lap-danced on several audience members wearing masks of David Cameron, Boris Johnson, and President Donald Trump. After months of being overwhelmed by serious and frustrating political events, it was a relief to be able to laugh at the hilarious and clever mockery made of them.

One of the stand-out performers was Riss Obolensky, parodying a sexist and sex-obsessed ‘Essex boy’, with a cleverly written satirical piece packed with innuendo and double entendres, and a hilarious interpretative dance that had her capering over the stage like a madwoman. The crowd was in fits of laughter, as was Obolensky herself, showing how drag, at its best, is light-hearted entertainment designed to please an audience. With only three drag kings, however, it could have done with a little more diversity; inevitably, however, it comes down to a question of participation, and it may simply be that there aren’t many drag kings in Cambridge.

Overall, the performance was incredible. It was camp and unapologetic; it was political and inventive, and, above all, it was covered in glitter. Gender binaries were busted, the audience whooped with approval at every single act, and it was exactly what drag should be: pure entertainment.