No one should have to fight for the right to be awesome, yet ruling classes exist (royalty, government, capitalist and corporate), sometimes because they are revered and respected by their subjects (possibly power bottoms, ‘topping from the bottom’ as would be said in a BDSM community), and sometimes through violent and oppressive regimes. Faux queen trixxie carr, a born-female drag queen orphan from San Francisco, examines the right of those outside of the status quo ruling classes to succeed within them, regardless of birthright through lineage, and instead by right of being. As in being. Here. Alive!
For Abandon Normal Devices Festival 2012, I was asked to explore and build upon the success of my last event with the festival: the UK premiere of the immersive, cinematic-cabaret and movie All About Evil with drag auteur and director Peaches Christ/Joshua Grannell. Taking the role of crazed, snuff movie director Deborah Tennis in the pre-show, it was trixxie, Joshua as Peaches, Sam Cortez-Sharkey and Tria Connell who fired-up a mini revolution. By sourcing local participants for contributory roles, from picketing, prudish librarians to lurching B-movie monsters, a precedent was set and collective call to arms issued to ensure further riotous alt-drag interventions.
The result was the subsequent founding of anarchic gender terrorists Tranarchy, sailing beneath the zebra print jockstrap flag of duo The Niallist and Midnight Growler, together with the flip-flopping House of Faux and their own, occasionally bestubbled mother-hen: steampunk pin-up and matriarch Mamma Dom. These were swiftly recruited once more, as were dreamweavers and dancers Ultra Violet Violence. An infusion of new blood came in the form of performance collective and costume designers The Volkov Commanders, plus my go-to man, Kev Thornton, prop maker and scenic designer able to realise the most bizarre of personal visions.
Revolutionary in her radical inclusion through art, trixxie often seeks out people who aren’t necessarily experienced in drag, dance, acting or singing to participate in her numbers as well as her theatrical works, creating a shared learning experience as well as a shared stage experience. Believing that everyone has the right to rule, whether in the context of being awesome onstage, or leading revolutions in art and culture via artistic means to improve our time on earth, is to her a personal choice, the success of which lies in action itself, the doing of the thing.
In remaining faithful to AND Festival’s ideals and pushing trixxie’s own practice to include new partnerships and technologies she may not otherwise be able to consider, I enlisted ‘famous’ new media artist Jeremy Bailey, appearing as part of the wider programme with his Master/Slave Invigilation System. Jeremy is a video and performance artist with a purposely constructed person: that a highly enthused, uber-optimist whose reliance upon future-forward technology never quite lives up to its promise. Jeremy’s practice can be described as a meatball of cyber-futurism and human fallibility; minced and mushed together to form a microcosmic study.
In his own way and from an entirely different position, Jeremy, like trixxie, is relandscaping, redefining and reaching beyond the insubstantial outlines of flesh and bone(r) to escape the restraints of both gendered and biological limitations. For The Right to RULE, Jeremy emceed the evening from his sci-fi styled base hub where he perched Blofeld-like (albeit in cut off denim go-go shorts and white polo neck) monitoring the performance of his curvaceous, wheel-heeled android progeny; each sporting iPad faces from which Jeremy’s own image was broadcast.
Also accompanying trixxie on the journey from San Francisco was her chosen counterpoint, Honey Mahogany. A flawless, fishy queen (as in female-passing, a compliment), who, like trixxie is a rare bird in that they both write their own material and sing live. It was a brave and even controversial choice for someone setting out to establish that genitalia shouldn’t influence drag legitimacy, for trixxie to invite a co-performer at the top of his/her game – so much so, that post-event Honey has been selected as a competitor in Season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the hit TV show on US television.
The performance split into three sections across the night. The first, Success, opening with an Olympian procession during which the togas were shed to reveal spandex beneath, seguing into Mason vs Princess Superstar’s ‘Perfect Exceeder’. During this chapter, each queen performed their most overtly ‘successful’ routines; for trixxie it was Hall & Oates’ ‘One on One’, for which she depicted a love triangle between a woman and her two favourite sex toys. Honey hit the stage with a gloriously as-real Beyoncé mash-up, seriously unnerving all straight-males in the room, finishing with ‘Rotisserie Booty’, trixxie’s own track on the topic of body objectification.
Next came Failure, from Honey delivering Amy Winehouse’s tellingly funereal ‘Back to Black’ as Cleopatra, doomed icons both, to one of my stand-out moments of the show: trixxie in the guise of Elizabeth I, challenging Cleopatra to chess, resulting in a stellar bitch-fit and chowing down upon her rival’s heart (lamb’s hearts slathered in fake blood). Jeremy Bailey cemented this middle-act by attempting to automise drag with his own laser sporting femme-bots, failing predictably (intentionally), followed by a stage invasion as multiple Liz Taylor’s (male, female and trans) ranted, screamed and raged in a tightly choreographed sequence inspired by the classic movie, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?*
Scrapping unhelpful, divisive classifications of success (at the expense of others) and failure also (there being no shame in the attempt), the final section of the show celebrated every individual’s inherent power, creativity and mutual freaking awesomeness. Honey debuted her American-Indian mythology inspired ‘Two Spirit’ and trixxie showered the stage in egg shells amidst clouds of bubbles for Siouxsie Sioux’s ‘Swimming Horses‘. But our beer addled minds were blown apart for the grand finale as trixxie, Honey and Jeremy delivered a triple whammy smackdown that once seen will never be forgotten: ‘We Are The World’ (USA For Africa) vs ‘Who Runs The World (Girls)’ / (Beyoncé), vs ‘Come Into My World’ (Kylie Minogue / Fischerspooner remix).
Culminating with trixxie’s final entrance upon the back of a specially commissioned full-size, lifelike unicorn, San Francisco’s avant-lady garden brought the AND Festival 2012 to a close by deflating impossible Olympian ideals and facilitating a pitch invasion. This was alt-drag as egalitarian tub-thumping, the use of the body as a site of demonstration and affirmation that all humans are equal in worth and social status. Yet even drag as a discipline can sometimes edge out female participation or specify how and where a biological woman might stand at the sidelines, despite its supposed inclusivity and implicit motto of ‘be who you want to be’. Hence the unicorn. Fantasy made flesh (or insulation foam). Dreams can come true, but first you have to make the attempt.
Thanks to Mica Sigourney and Eli Francis for permission to enact Martha, Martha, Martha. Photography by Roshana Rubin-Mayhew, Jamie Alun Price and Pam Van Damned Visuals. Videography by Tim Brunsden. Wigs by Mitch Woodiwiss. Wardrobe support from D Lucille Campbell. Venue: Gorilla, Manchester.