Becky from Bonnie and The Bonnettes gives an insight into their creative process and what it means to be a ‘drag queen’ ahead of Drag Me To Love, which arrives at CPT on Tue 19 Sept as part of Come As You Are: three weeks of trans, nonbinary and gender queer theatre.
We are Hattie Eason, Becky Glendenning-Laycock, Cameron Sharp, and Abbey Jones, otherwise known as Bonnie and The Bonnettes. We’re based in Newcastle Upon Tyne and our first show ever is coming to CPT on the 19th of September for the Come As You Are festival. We’re very excited!
We like to say the work we do as Bonnie and The Bonnettes is loud, fun, and unapologetic and our debut show Drag Me to Love is certainly that. The show tells the true story of a young boy (our Cameron!) from Doncaster who finds himself in the world of 80’s pop anthems, glitter, and drag.
We’re a small company but I joined as a technician in the early days; more behind the stage than dancing on it. I had no idea what I was in for when I agreed to be part of the cast. From day one the heart of Bonnie and The Bonnettes has been our fun nature. Whenever we start making there’s always a period of playing, finding where we sit within the world of the material. Luckily, because this is Cameron’s story and all the events are dramatised but true, from the get go the world was a lot more tactile. Being from Yorkshire, I knew of the places we talk about in the show, I can see them in my mind when we mention them. Especially the chippy in Bradford, I recommend the one at Five Lane Ends. We enjoy making people think and question what they know, just as we try to do with everything we make. If we can do that in an 80’s pop fueled environment, even better. We enjoying pushing ourselves and learning, but what we end up with should always make people laugh, or at least have a cracking soundtrack.
When a piece is finished off and made all shiny, it can be hard to see where the original blueprint stood. As we crack on with Drag Me to Love, I can start to see that happening with the way we talk about gender, in the show but also individually. Something that kept coming up in our discussions was how we use the term “Drag Queen”. The more we started thinking and talking about it the more the more we began to wonder why, aside from the history, there’s such a distinction between male-identifying drag performers, and everyone else. You don’t have to be a man in a dress to perform drag, so why is the title still only reserved for those performers.
The story of the show is about getting into drag, and when I became part of the cast I had to get used to being in drag pretty quickly. We knew making the show would involve us playing with drag and gender, and we wanted to do it in a way that we felt safe to explore. I recently started dipping my toe in the Drag King waters, and that’s a totally other thing that’s also exciting, but my point is drag can be a really fun way of exploring gender, especially your own. When Cameron first sat us down to teach us how to do drag queen make up I had no clue what I was doing. No clue. I used to just stare helplessly at the different shades of contour hoping one would speak to me. Drag queening always seemed like this really feminine thing and I’m not. We perform regularly as a drag troupe for cabaret nights as a way to test new ideas and ourselves, and to this day Drag Me to Love is the only occasion I wear anything that isn’t trousers, but I’m working on it.
The world we’ve created with Drag Me to Love is a bit much, a bit loud, a bit bright, and we’ve enjoyed taking that and making it part of our own personas. Drag to me is all about taking something and heightening it, pushing it, playing with it, exposing it, and that’s something I’d have never had the chance to do were it not for this show and this company.
We’re unbelievably exciting to be kicking off the autumn leg of our tour at CPT, hopefully see you there!