Drag 101

20 May 2019

Photograph: Margaret Banford

A new drag show in town

The drag scene in Scotland, and in Glasgow in particular, has been growing hugely over the past decade. Perhaps due to the popularity of the show RuPaul’s Drag Race, and to the ever-growing gay scene in Glasgow, drag is hotter than ever.

Drag itself is a staple of gay culture, and this is perhaps why people associate it with men dressing up as very flamboyant women. While drag queens are definitely the most visible on the scene, drag kings (women dressed up as men) are making their mark as well. Drag can mean different things to different people.

Anna Secret Poet, described what they love about drag as being: “A chance to show off, be outrageous and fabulous! That’s not necessarily what I do right enough. It allows me to marry my twin loves of music and dresses. Everyone’s drag is different though and that’s the fun of it.”

Drag and drag shows have a longer history than most people realise. Going back to the time of Shakespeare, when women were not allowed on the stage to perform in plays, men filled in for them, wearing women’s clothing to do so. This carried over into the world of opera, which had always had men in women’s clothing for certain parts, but which happily introduced the concept of ‘breeches role’ when the theatres moved into having professional actresses.

A breeches role was when a role was male, but had to be sung by a soprano or alto. In previous years, these roles had been taken by castrati, but when that was outlawed, alternative sources of singers had to be found.

Drag shows have been becoming more popular in recent years. Alana Duvey runs a monthly cabaret show in Glasgow. Duvey says, “drag helped me with self-confidence and has helped me find a part of myself I never knew existed.  I’ve always been shy and quite introverted.”

Drag queen McMarilyn. Photo Credit: Margaret Banford

The visibility of the LGBTQI+ community in Glasgow has certainly helped with certain aspects of drag culture becoming more widely acceptable. Alongside the popularity of certain shows surrounding drag and drag culture, there has been an the increase in clubs and pubs for specifically LGBTQI+ clientele as well.

So where does Drag 101 come into this scene? Most drag shows are held at night, and most are held in some form of pub or club. This has several issues attached to it – they can be too expensive, and they can drive away people who might be interested in seeing drag, but who might also be unable to access the venues.

Last year saw the Revolution bar launch a brunch with drag queens, which gave people an opportunity to see drag queens perform in a slightly more relaxed setting. Drag 101 has the same idea, taking place in the Gilchrist Postgraduate Club in the University of Glasgow, a relaxed social space which has more the vibe of a coffee shop than anything else. This night is open to anyone, and is also free of charge, allowing for a wider variety of people to attend than would otherwise be possible. However, people under 18 do need to be accompanied by an adult.

Duvey describes Drag 101 as a relaxed atmosphere, saying: “I always describe it like a bunch of old friends getting together, chilling out and having fun.  It’s such a positive and supportive little evening with no pressure and that’s what I like most about it.”

“We always have a nice mix of experienced and lesser experienced artist which makes for a nice blend of different talents and performances.”

Anna Secret Poet agrees, saying: “Drag 101 offers a warm friendly environment – not that the other nights don’-  where you can do pretty much anything you want…experiment and go wild.  It also has 2 awesome hosts!”

Anna Secret Poet sees drag as a way of being “a different version of myself for a little while. Also people tend to respond more positively to my alter-ego. Essentially I am just the same person just wearing different clothes and nicer hair!”

For Duvey, it is a way of melding different artistic mediums, since “it’s drawing, sculpting, painting, costume/prop making and live performance.  There’s not many other mediums out there that can incorporate just about every aspect of art in one go but drag does that.”

There is, of course, always a potential for drag to be used in political and social messages. Alana Duvey says that it “can also be used to deliver messages in a unique way that nothing else can, which is why a lot of drag artists use their platform to express political views.

“Of course drag is also very political, it fucks with society and their views on gender too.  It makes you ask questions which is a good thing, curiosity is always a good thing.”

At the end of the day though, drag is simply fun for everybody involved. While drag queens like Alana Duvey would welcome money and fame as part of performing, the fun is what draws her to it primarily.

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