The award-winning musical A Night At The Musicals is coming to the Pieter Toerien’s Theatre on the Bay from Tuesday September 17 to Saturday October 5.
In the show, drag artists Nigerian-born Le Gateau Chocolat and London-based Jonny Woo play off each other like the drag versions of French and Saunders or the Two Ronnies.
The Pink Tongue had an opportunity to pose questions to the duo.
PT: We are happy to have you in South Africa, will this your first time?
Neither of us have ever been to South Africa. We’ve heard such incredible things about it’s beauty and are very excited to be debuting in less than a fortnight.
PT: Why do you think the drag queen phenomenon has become so popular these days, in the public mainstream?
Woo – A certain type of drag has become mainstream mainly due to the TV show Ru Paul’s Drag Race but drag can be subversive, political, unexpected and not about contouring and padding.
Gateau – We’ve been doing drag from before the advent of the TV show and will hopefully persist long after. So to us, it’s not about its mainstream appeal but more about it’s ability to be a vehicle of performance that can be challenging, entertaining and reflective of society
PT: Perhaps you either of you can advise… what makes a drag queen ‘fishy’?
Gateau -The terms for us harks back to old school misogyny. To us, drag isn’t about female impersonation but about channelling our own femininity which society often denigrated.
PT: Do you think shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race promote acceptance for drag queens or does it misrepresent drag culture?
There’s so much more to drag than Ru Paul’s Drag Race.
PT: What is the best part about being a drag artist?
Gateau – Great question. The empowerment afforded us by fully embracing the fluidity and illusion of gender.
Woo – The glorious costumes that our dear friend, Jacqui Potato makes for us and we showcase in our shows across the globe.
Its ridiculous that it is drag that is introducing us to many far flung parts of the globe.
PT: What do you think of the evolution of the term ‘drag’?
Woo – I have a LGBT bar in London and for us drag really is for everybody. We range from very femme drag by cis boys, to drag kings, which are female to male drag, to trans artists using drag to tell their story to artists who will use just elements of drag in their performance. we are the ones evolving the parameters of drag, making it ours and challenging what the mainstream now thinks drag is.
PT: When it comes to costumes, what inspires you and who makes them?
Gateau – Everything inspires us. Opera, drama, music, high street fashions, Macqueen, Vogue, Angela Lansbury, Disney, Body shapes, fabrics… Inspiration is all around us.
We both use Jacqui Potato but I also have a wonderful lady; Abbey Grewcock. They help realise our costume fantasies.
Woo – I’ve taken a liking to Marks and Spencer’s women’s collection.
Gateau – And ASOS plus.
PT: Did both of you always want to be drag performers?
Gateau – No, I studied law.
Woo- I fell into drag by mistake. I went to NYC to become a dancer but my community were strippers or drag queens and it rubbed off. Started off as performance art and 20 years later here we are…
PT: Jonny Woo, you’ve been dubbed, as far as nightlife is concerned, one of London’s most notorious figures. Why do you think that is?
Because I’m known for jumping around naked, in high heels with a firework up my bum. Unfortunately for SA, that’s not in this show. But you know, you get the picture.
PT: Le Gateau Chocolat, you recently participated in the Bayreuth festival where you received boos from operatic conservatives… how did this effect and /or fuel you?
I don’t know how to answer that. I’m still processing it. Hopefully, SA will provide the much needed antidote to what was rather traumatic. Cheering and standing ovations – AT THE END, appreciated.
PT: What can we expect to see in “A Night At The Musicals”?
Everything musical theatre especially with the jukebox section where the audience takes complete control of the show and we perform their suggestions except the Rocky Horror Show (which I hate). In short, we like to describe this show as a les miserMASACRE!