Chris Williams

DRAG FOR AUTISM | STAGE REVIEW

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DRAG FOR AUTISM | STAGE REVIEW

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Mary’s, Cardiff. Fri 12 Jan

On Friday at Mary’s in Cardiff a versatile group of drag performers turned out for charity – Drag for Autism was a drag night to raise awareness and funds for autism, The Autism Directory and The Welsh Autism Ball.

The night was a genuine cross section of the type of burgeoning drag that is becoming loved on the Cardiff scene; not one act was the same, from live singing and lip syncs to rap songs from drag king Gentleman Jack. The line-up included a mix of gender transcending drag kings and queens; a mix of favourites of the Cardiff scene and even a few drag debutantes and (possibly) Cardiff’s first couple of drag fiancés. One of the debut performances was from young drag artist Luna Sea (Lewis Amphlett) – stepping onto the stage like a love-child of Stevie Nicks, I will admit that I would’ve been disappointed if she lip-synched, but I really wasn’t expecting pop-punk vocals. Another performer who sang live was Polly Esther, I’ve never seen her perform before but if her act is always like a mixture of Ab Fab’s Patsy and a Northern Jessica Rabbit then I’m entertained. While I’m sure she’d admit herself that she’s not the best of singers, she gets a thumbs up for singing Bette Davies Eyes.

The hosting was admirable from GWAED (Oskar Salmon) – who themselves has autism and was responsible for this event – and Cardiff favourite Polly Amorous (Twm Bollen-Molloy). The two have such different drag aesthetics that they complement each other well. Even though she’s young, Amorous is already such a professional on the Cardiff scene and she would’ve been a comforting support as a co-host, had GWAED needed it.

As well as GWAED representing the charity, two members of The Autism Directory team, Michael Charles and Gareth Tarrant, turned up in support and decided to try out dressing in drag for the first time. Whilst every act was incredibly entertaining, the one reluctant bit of criticism is that there maybe could have been more jokes, comedy sets or stand-up routines in between the performances. There were comic asides and one or two in-jokes – Polly Amorous is so naturally funny that it might have been good to see her throw some good-natured ‘shade’ around or even ‘read’ the audience. The night ended with another debut and perhaps the emergence of Cardiff’s drag power couple. Medusa Repulsa (Rhys Pitman) has been a popular face on the scene for over a year but now her fiancé’s drag alter-ego, Nemesis Repulsa (Joshua Jack Tavener), is making her debut at just a few months old. Their duet performance ran from spoken-word lip-synching to clips from the TV show Feud, onto the song Popular from the musical Wicked and ending with a breakaway performance from Nemesis of Rain On My Parade, like a condensed drag version of All About Eve.

The Cardiff drag scene is such a close community that everyone knows and is friends with each other. It’s obvious that they love performing together and enjoy watching each other; this is half the fun – watching people enjoy themselves by entertaining others and all for a good cause.

words Chris Williams

The Welsh Autism Ball is an annual charity event that aims to raise awareness and acceptance in Wales, as well as raising funds for the Autism Directory and autism projects that help those diagnosed with autism and their families. April is World Autism Awareness Month and the Welsh Autism Ball takes place on Sat 21 April at The Vale Resort, Hensol. Info: http://www.autismdirectorycharity.com

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