Mary Golds: Grindstones and Rhinestones
The Lookout Cafe, Fri 5 Oct
Mary Golds – celebrating a decade on the Cardiff drag scene by selling out her first one-woman-show at Cardiff Bay’s Lookout Cafe Bar – burst on to the stage in a blaze of camp. She comes on like the lovechild of Ethel Merman, singing No Business Like Showbusiness – and there is no business like this particular kind of show-business on the Cardiff drag scene at the moment.
Mary Golds is a fully formed character – complete with a back story of rich husbands and famous friends – a character that has been developed and refined over the last decade, as Golds says herself “Mary has changed a lot over ten years – for one she’s aged phenomenally quick”. So authentic is she that you’d never guess the person behind her is in their 20s; Golds is a convincing Dame-like and regal figure. The influences are clear; you could almost call her ‘Bassey-esque’. Grindstones and Rhinestones is everything that’s great about drag-cabaret with a modern twist. There are no lip-syncs or death drops on this night; the casual fan of a certain TV show is not the audience for Mary Golds; drag is variety after all. There was a piano accompanied I’m Still Here, and a duet with Golds’ guest, vocalist Mark Gibson (who provided a welcome warm-up to the main event), on the Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand Happy Days/Get Happy. Although most of the references were from yesteryear it didn’t make the show feel dated but fresh and modern instead.
With her rich husbands, including Richard Burton, and famous friends like Joan Collins and Shirley Bassey, Grindstones and Rhinestones took the form of an old fashioned ‘audience with’. There were filthy jokes, autobiographical, celebrity anecdotes and questions from the audience (albeit planted questions); there were even in-jokes about Cardiff’s drag community, some of who were in the audience.
As a drag act, Golds has perfected her craft in gay bars for the past several years, so the crowd work is exceptional – she never misses a beat. It’s not easy to tell what is written and what is a hilarious tangent, the transitions seamless. We all know such characters, who trade good-natured insults with their friends in the pub. Only Mary Golds wraps her acerbic asides in glitter.
The evening ended with a heartfelt dedication to the LGBT community in Cardiff. Gone was the artifice of performance. This wasn’t the character talking but a gay entertainer who loves working amongst and being part of an LGBT family. Dedicating her last song to an absent friend, Golds closed the night with the gay anthem, I Am What I Am. Here’s to the next evening with Mary Golds!
words Chris Williams