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Amid the throng of West End Live, the crowds at Trafalgar Square were treated to a bit of drag fabulousness as the cast of ‘Queenz’ took to the stage both Saturday and Sunday to spice up our lives! On Saturday, the cast (Billie Eye Lash, Summer Storm, Candy Caned, Bella Du Ball, Dior Monte and Zeze Van Cartier) popped to see Martha at The Admiral Duncan and join in the fun, and afterwards, stopped for a cup of tea and a chat with our Martha!

Martha: So lovely to see you, ladies! Now, let’s have a chat about this show you’re bringing to town! ‘Queenz – Live and In London’ is about to start a limited run that’s just been extended to six weeks, at the Underbelly Boulevard Theatre here in Soho before you embark on a huge national tour! So congratulations to you first of all, but why don’t you tell me, have any of you worked in drag before?

Billie: I’ve been doing drag for 408 years (jokes). No, this is my 9th year in drag and I’m only 21 (obviously I’m lying) – yes 9 long years and I love it. I’ll never ever leave drag, I don’t think!

Candy: I’ve been doing drag since January this year, so I’m a fresh newbie, and (pauses) I love it.

Do you love it more than you thought you would?

Candy: I have to say, when I first got into it, it was the most overwhelming experience, but once I’d got over that 30 seconds I was like “this is me!”.

 It’s quite freeing, isn’t it?

Candy: 100%. Everybody says you feel like a different person in drag or, like, your inner self comes out and truly, it does! I can’t really explain it but people that want to dabble in it, I would say – 100% give it a go. Drag is huge, isn’t it? There are so many difference variations of drag that anything is acceptable in the world of drag so if you wanna go for it, put a bit of bronzer on, a bit of blush, just go for it. Because you honestly feel fabulous!

Dior: I had dabbled and done a few little bits but I would say I’ve done drag now since January of last year.

So not the baby queen anymore?

Dior: Not any more, no. But I’m the same, I LOVE it and I think that as queer people we hide a lot of ourselves and drag allows us to celebrate things that we aren’t always proud of and now I can be. So yeah, it’s lovely.

Zeze: I dabbled quite a bit before joining ‘Queenz’, I had my own show that I’d go and do in bars or festivals and stuff and it wasn’t until ‘Queenz’ that I actually started looking good. (laughs) Before that I did look a bit busted but they still paid that cheque hun. It’s the first time I’ve actually worn drag with facial hair doing ‘Queenz’ and it wasn’t till I started embracing the masculinity in me which started making me more unapologetic about my feminine side too. So, that combination is something that’s allowed me to be free in myself.

Bella: It was 2015 when I was put in drag for the very first time with another drag girl group! (loud gasps from the room) I know! Scandal! It was with a drag group called Diva-stated. Safe to say we did two gigs, they could fund it soit ended. Which was such a shame cos the costumes and the make-up were incredible. You (Candy) said it very well – that drag reveals your true self, so once I had that experience and acceptance after being told ‘you’re too camp’ and ‘you’re too ‘this and that’’ and actually, sometimes when I’m in drag I think ‘I need to up it more’ which is WILD andI’ve never looked back and never felt more beautiful, to be honest.

Summer: It’s been 84 years (laughs). So I’m the baby of the group, really. Again, I, too, have dabbled and sort of explored drag throughout my life in a sort of performance art way at Uni and in my dissertation and stuff like that, and I’ve always found gender performativity really fascinating, but for me, this is really only second day in full drag (girls sing happy birthday) and I feel amazing. It was only last week when we first put this face on a gave it a go and it was such an overwhelming experience but bit by bit you could see the face and the character coming together a bit more andit’s been such a fabulous experience. Very overwhelming, definitely, but I’m very excited and can’t wait to start performing with these girls.

I must warn you, it is addictive, so be careful! Cos once you start, it’s hard to stop!

Summer: Oh! I will try!

Martha: So, can you tell me what the idea, the creative philosophy and impulse behind the show is?

Billie: I’ll give it a go (coyly). I don’t really like to talk much (clears throat)… so…. On the surface ‘Queenz” is a fabulous night out. It’s a camp old time where you can come and sing along, have a gay old time and it IS that. We want people to have the best time and sing along and enjoy themselves but, there is a little message we want people to take home. Love is love, live your truth, unapologetically. Whether you’re queer or not. Whatever YOUR truth is, you know? If you’re having any sort of hardship and you just want to forget that, leave it at the door. Come in and just escape, enjoy yourself. Have the best time with anyone you’ve come with, or even if you’ve come on your own, you’ll still have Sheila on one side, Carol on the other (she’ll get you an espresso martini in the interval), you know what I mean? So it really encapsulates the idea of “Love is Love”. Be who you want to be. Enjoy yourself. Life’s too short, so let’s have a camp old time!

I would love to know, if you could have a special guest drag performer with you every night, who would that be for each of you?

Candy: God rest his soul, but for me, Lily Savage, actually. She’s iconic, right? She paved the way for a lot of people and made a huge name for herself back in the day when it really wasn’t THAT accepted. She was known for being this incredible drag queen before she was ‘Paul O’Grady’ and I think that is somebody that I would aspire to be and I think she cannot be forgotten, especially in the UK, she’s an iconic UK queen.

Dior: I think for me, I’m gonna go for Jinx Monsoon just because she’s an all-rounder. She’s so funny, got a beautiful voice and I love that she’s saying ‘drag is theatre’. They’re one and the same and I think people forget that, it’s fun, it’sentertainment. I love what she’s about, and she’s VERY talented.

Zeze: One of the first drag queens that I was introduced to that I saw online on really bizarre YouTube clips was David Hoyle and I saw him at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Very much that kind of not overtly feminine, not wig-wearing, crazy, artistic, gritty, tells you how it is – you know, that kind of vibe. And I know you have pop divas here but we do have that kind of British humour in the show which is also what sets us apart and I think David Hoyle does that incredibly well. Don’t know if she can sing but it would be fun to find out. I’ll do a duet with you!

Bella: I think my answer is going to be the same as Dior, Jinx Monsoon. She was the first queen I saw, even prior tomoving to London, I thought I wanted to be the queen that does Broadway, and I dream of, despite looking like a pop star, I dream of singing those old camp classics, you know, like in just the biggest venue ever. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

Martha d’Arthur asked the cast, “What is QUEENZ about?”

Summer: For me – Ru Paul (kidding!) – we do love Ru Paul, but for me, while drag race is such a big phenomenon and there’s a few queens we love from there, one of my favourites is Jujubee. I thinking Jujubee is so entertaining, great sense of humour and really fun and she loves a good sing and a drink so can’t go wrong there.

Billie: I’m gonna be cheeky and have two! Number one is Betty Legs Diamond, aka Simon Greene from Funnygirls in Blackpool. I had the privilege of working with her for five years in my first ever drag job, and she whipped me into shape and I really credit her for my work ethic and the basis of my drag. She can hold the audience in the palm of her hand by raising one eyebrow and that’s not a skill that many people have. Maybe I don’t have it yet, but one day I will when I’m 400 years old like she is (winks) and number two really quickly is Myra Dubois. I think she is HILARIOUS. The amount of times I’m sat on the loo scrolling through Instagram (cos that’s what you do isn’t it) and I cackle and the next thing I know, half an hour’s gone by!!! Another one that would be fun to find out if they can really sing.

Now, if you had to perform as a tribute or an impersonation of someone, who would that be?

Candy: I feel that, very on brand for Candy, is actually the Cheeky Girls, that would be iconic.

Dior: I love a big song so I’m gonna go with Barbra Streisand. I think she’s incredible and I lover her music so that’s who I would choose.

Billie: My icon is Madonna. I feel like she paved the way for a lot of the pop divas of today who wouldn’t exist without Madonna. She broke down what people perceived a female artist could do and she was a big middle finger to people being put in boxes. In one of her shows she was told if she did that (a simulated sex scene) she’d be arrested. On her documentary she’s being arrested and saying “I’m gonna do it anyway!” so I LOVE that.

Summer: Does anyone remember the queen called Kelly, who did that song called ‘Shoes”. I want to do her, she’s just made her comeback at LA pride and I want her to come here and sing ‘Shoes’ for us. A diva, an icon, a legend. Kelly. Shooooes.

Bella: Ladies, after three, what’s mine? 3 – 2 – 1- (all the girls – “CELINE DION”). Thank you very much ladies. Her songs have been with me since I was young, just to be on the same level as her passion cos she doesn’t just love performing, she has a love of singing and she loves being with the people that she does it for. Her ‘want’ for performing isn’t for fame, it’s not for fame, it’s because it’s who she is. It runs in her veins, it runs in her blood and she does it over and over again, and that’s want inspires me every single day. Her voice doesn’t come from ‘I’ve got bills to pay’ – when she’s on stage it’s ‘lights on, lets go’.

Zeze: Me and Billie Eyelash connect on Madonna 100%, but if I had to say someone else, and I feel like we’re the drag epitome of these people, it’s got to be – The Spice Girls honey. As queer people, it’s like our resistance, it’s part of my identity and my earliest memories are running around in my mum’s nightie to the blooming Spice Girls. I was lucky enough to see them in 2019 at their reunion and it was the BEST day ever cos it was so nostalgic and if you come see ‘Queenz – Live In London’ you will see that we ARE the drag Spice Girls. Drag power!

Because you’re about to go on tour, I would like to know how much you know about each other. Who is the biggest flirt?

All the girls point!

Bella: Miss Billie Eye Lash

Martha: Who’s the messiest?

Pointing in different directions

Dior: I think on the bus everyone’s quite good, but getting ready I think it’s me.

Bella: Yes, the answer is Dior Monte.

Who’s always on time and who’s always late?

Zeze: I’m always the first to get ready. (girls agree)

Dior: Late? I’d say it’s Billie. (girls nod)

Billie: You can’t rush perfection.

Candy: And you can’t polish a turd!

Billie: But you can roll it in glitter! (lots of laughing all round)

And who eats the most rubbish?

Candy: You know what, actually, we all probably eat a bit of rubbish, right? There’s times when we’re like “fancy a maccers?” and we’re all down in the maccers straight after a show and then there’s other times when we’re havingchicken, rice and vegetables and we’re doing very well. Queens that eat together , stay together.

Billie: (pointing to Summer) This one won’t eat Greggs, she likes a Pret, cos she’s posh. She’s from Kent.

Summer: Do you ski?

And your last touring question… who’s the last to leave the club?

LOTS of various finger-pointing

Bella: I would say it’s a toss-up between Billie Eye Lash, Zeze Van Cartier and Dior Monte.

(general consensus agrees)

Dior: And whilst we’re live in London, we’ll be going out quite a lot (not too much cos we’ve got to look after our voices and our boss is over there (points to producer) but yes, come and party in Soho with us.

Martha: Do you have any performance superstitions or rituals?

Dior: As a group, we do have a warm up.

(all girls perform salad based chant)

Bella: And then, on top of that, we give each other a lovely big old boob slap.

Dior: Yeah we do that every show!

Martha interviews the cast of QUEENZ: Live in London

Given that you’re paying homage to some massive divas and massive pop hits and well known songs, if you could have an Alexandra Burke/Beyonce moment where somebody comes out and joins you on stage mid song, who would that be?

Billie: (without missing a beat) Kate Winslet with ‘What If’. It’s from the animated movie ‘A Christmas Carol’, shereleased it as a single, but only if all the proceeds went to charity because she didn’t want people to think that she took herself seriously as a recording artist. That song lives here (points to forehead) rent free in my brain, and I love Kate Winslet, and if you’re out there Kate, if you’re watching (reading) this, Kate, just please come to Soho (sings openingof ‘What If’

Bella: Ready girls? 1 – 2 – 3 (all: CELINE DION). Thank you. I don’t know if you got that the first time. I can’t help it! Again – just her passion on stage. I would love to sing ‘Because you love me’ cos I see how she gets into it as well.I’d just, well, cry.

Candy: I would love actually to have a big fierce, like, giving it dance beans with Little Mix. I would looooove that. I’m slightly obsessed with them anyway, but to be that fifth member, well fourth now would just be iconic. I’d love that so much.

Zeze: I think mine would be singing a little duet with Pink! She has a lot of anthems of my broken teenage years so that would be very lethargic.

Dior: Mine is going to be Adele. Killer singer, good time gal, and loves the LGBTQ+ community as we saw in her Vegas show. 

Summer: Obvioulsy like many of us I’m a musical theatre queen and someone I would love to duet with is Audra McDonald. The voice is insane so to have her come out and sing with me would be unreal. Big fan!

Here are two quick-fire questions to finish. If you could add one location to your tour schedule, where would that be?

Dior: Broadway

Candy: Ibiza

Billie: Skegness

Summer: Oslo

Bella: New York for me too!

Zeze: Berlin

Billie: No, paris! Oh no! Blackpool – we went on the first tour, and I want to go back! Ride the big dipper!! And also go to the theme park!

And give me one word that describes and encapsulates the show! Sell it to me in one word.

Billie: Effervescent (see, I know big words!)

Candy: I would say Camp!

Dior: I’m gonna say Heart!

Zeze: Fierce!

Bella: Electrifying!

Summer: Opulence!

Queenz Live In London at the Underbelly

Finally, what do you hope that audiences will take away from coming to see ‘Queenz’?

Candy: I actually think, and it sounds a bit silly, but I love to see the audience reaction to certain points in the show because it hits hard and sparks something for everyone, I feel. So it’s really nice to see that in those moments, we’re all the same, regardless of if you’ve got a wig on or if you’re a straight male, it’s nice to see people’s vulnerability to the concept of what we do and it’s a nice feeling to know you’re making a difference.

Dior: Most of the show is up-tempo with pop anthems and, you know, getting the audience up and dancing, but towards the end of the show, we pull it back quite a bit, and one of the songs we sing in the current version of the show is ‘True Colours’. A lot of people, we find, aren’t 100% sure what they’re coming to. They know that there’s going tobe the songs, and they know there’s gonna be the death drops or whatever, but I think they get shocked by the heart behind the show. There’s not many drag shows where people end up crying, or really opening up to each other, and ustoo!

Candy: Yeah, they see us break down.

Dior: Yes, cos we do cry quite a lot, and it’s just because of audience reaction, and we do really care about the message of the show, it’s really important to us. Most drag queens are doing [drag] for a reason, so yes, for me, ‘True Colours’ is a moment.

That’s a good point though, given that it’s theatre do you think people are coming with certain expectations?

Bella: Yes, that’s my point I think. The reason I love ‘Queen Of The Night’ more than anything, is because I think people do come with a certain expectation of [the show] being either very slapstick or something they’ve seen on tellywhether it be “lip synch” or walking around in a circle or whatever. That first number where we hit, not just harmonies with our vocals, so in synch, but the power we hit them within the choreography, it’s like a music video. I can honestly saying, without being rude, I can see the audience thinking ‘Oh f***’. When Miss Candy comes in rapping, we’ve got our own lane, and we’re not here to f*** around. We’re about to give you the time you didn’t know was coming, and I think that’s what makes it so incredible.

Dior: I think a lot of audiences go to look and watch drag, but we do involve these audiences. You’re gonna sing, you’re gonna get up, we’re going to come and chat to you. You’re looking at me, I’m looking at you too. People get shocked when they’re sat in the circle and after the show we say ‘Oh I saw you in the circle’, that we’re really there with them and engaging. It’s more than just watching, I think.

So the audience really are at the centre of your show and that message of acceptance and love is really central?

Candy: Yes, but also, and I know I’m quite new to the show, but I’ve never felt a connection with people quite like it. I tear up thinking about it, but because it’s so important to us, this message, as queer people. This show brings so many people together, but it’s also brought us together in such a close way, it’s very special. People need to come and experience this with us. We’re not just doing it because we have to do 8 shows a week, we really do love it and you can see that from the audience, how much we love each other and we get a lot of comments about that.

I’ll ask you that again at the end of the tour. Good luck with it all, and have a wonderful run!

It was a real pleasure to spend time with this cast and I’m so looking forward to watching this myself now!

QUEENZ: Live in London runs for 6 weeks, from 11 July to 4 August at Underbelly Boulevard, 6 Walker’s Court, Soho, London W1F 0BT, United Kingdom.

For details for the UK tour starting in September go to https://www.queenztheshow.com/tour-dates/

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