Drag is a very powerful form of expression and part of theatre since Ancient Greece. So, although some may find it a fairly new creative experience from an audience perspective —Where have you been the last few thousand years?— it’s been part of the arts since the birth of theatre. With that said, you should already have made your booking to see NON-Specific at Gate69 as a celebration of drag and its truth.
Drag as art is the most fantastic of transformations, whether that be as a heightened self or a total character and identity opposite. In Cape Town, three of the queens of transformation, evolve and develop their unique drag-expression more and more with every show they present at Gate69 aka The Purple Palace on Bree Street.
These three queens, known as The Trolley Dollies, have outdone themselves with their latest offering, NON-Specific. The essence of the show, in tone and character, reminds of the statement by Laurence Senelick in the book The Changing Room: Sex, Drag and Theatre: ‘Even when the outward signs are skin-deep, the psychic rift is traumatic’. With Senelick having said that to draw a comparison between the much respected transformational powers of a shaman and the celebrated evolution of drag, The Trolley Dollies are similarly revealing something magical (to be respected and celebrated for its own transformational power) to their audiences, as they share their origin-stories in NON-Specific.
Thanks to shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race and the world coming to the realisation that Shakespeare was all about drag performances too, the art form has been assimilated and accepted, even celebrated, for its creative edge and social commentary importance. What was once a taboo has now become mainstream and that is truly fantastic. But, somewhere between the sequins, feathers, and fabulousness, the assimilation of the art has also come at a cost: Audiences so easily forget that the Drag Queens spilling the T actually bare their soul and sorrow (dressed up as sarcasm) with the world —we're just so blinded by the drag-glamour that we forget to look beyond the lashes to see the person in the wig.
With NON-Specific, The Trolley Dollies are shaking things up and turning the stage back-to-front (dressing room first) to do things differently and show audiences that they're more than just their make-up. It’s exactly that refreshing and revealing honesty (which so often gets lost on the way to the stage, because of the unfortunate presumption that no one needs to see the drag-graft behind the craft) that makes the rawness and reality that the The Trolley Dollies share so appealing and beautiful.
Guided by Christopher Dudgeon’s insightful script, Cathy (Brendan van Rhyn), Molly (Rudi Jansen) and Holly (Dudgeon) perform their hearts out in NON-Specific, giving audiences a show that’s got shade, sass and, most importantly, soul.
With sleek moves (choreographed by Sven-Eric Müller) and great songs and vocal arrangements (musical direction by Melissa van der Spuy, with additional lyrics by Van Rhyn), beautifully performed by The Trolley Dollies, they allow audiences to step behind the figurative curtain and connect with their personas in a setting that can be described as RuPaul’s Drag Race's 'The Werk Room' meets Untucked. (Not sure what I mean by that? Gurl, you've got some Netflix to do!)
The costumes (Lloyd Kandlin and Kyle Jardine) and set design (Eddie du Plooy) are striking, without being larger-than-life dramatic, to allow the rawness of the emotions and stories shared to shine as the primary focus of the show.
With a carefully constructed narrative, paired with just the right mix of 80s dance and song inspiration, The Trolley Dollies impressively jolt you out of the lyrical buzz into a truth-revealed finale, leaving you with a powerful message: Regardless of how anyone dresses up or down, whether on- or off-stage, when the make-up comes off, we're all only human.
Drag, specifically as showcased by The Trolley Dollies in NON-Specific, is so much more than performers putting on pretty frocks. For the essence of their show, I find myself drawing on Senelick’s insight again: ‘The interaction of the two perceptions during the theatrical event contributes both to the social significance and its aesthetic uniqueness.’
NON-Specific at its core is that interaction-moment for The Trolley Dollies, and it’s quite an experience to share that theatrical coming-together of significance and uniqueness with them.
You can see this fabulous show with sequence and heart at Gate69 until 27 July 2019, with your Purple Palace experience including some scrumptious tapas and tequila ice-cream too. Oh, and one more thing: Patti LuPone has competition, as Cathy (Van Rhyn) matches her note for note with an outstanding NON-Specific ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ moment. Book your tickets online at gate69.co.za.