Completing hubby’s birthday was the 10th anniversary of CK Sunday’s at Halfway. We have only followed CK for less than two years when we began taking regular trips back up to London. In fact, it was one boozy Sunday that we wandered into Halfway to experience CK for the first time. It was CK Sunday that made us both fall in love again with the London scene. They also rekindled our love of all things drag.
In that time we have been so honoured with the welcome we get when we see them; and having a shout out for having travelled up from Cornwall made our day. This though is the essence of their show on a Sunday at Halfway: community.
I challenge you to go see CK on a Sunday and not leave feeling fabulous or at least with a smile on your face. Are they the perfect way to round off the weekend or start the week? The answer is both.
CK are formed of Crystal D’Canter and Kelly Mild who bring you proper sing along magic from musical theatre numbers to Erasure, Bananarama and Kim Wilde. Signature tunes include “Suddenly Seymour” from Little Shop of Horrors, “Oom Pah Pah” from Oliver, “I Know Him So Well” from Chess. After seeing CK, you will never listen to “I Want You Back” by Bananarama without hearing Kelly Mild’s addition of “Back! Back! Back!” Nor will you sing along to “I Drove All Night” without adding Crystal D’Canter’s hand on wheel motion.
Their extravaganza was not just a celebration of them but a way to give back to their fans. There were awards and prizes to the hardworking staff at Halfway and to those fans who are there week after week getting their dose of CK. There was a special guest PA by Miss Alex Vileda Anstey, currently performing in the West End production of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.
I’m an urban boy at heart. Third generation Native New Yorker you don’t meet many of us anymore. I have to admit that the longer we live in the country side, I run the risk of being labelled a provincial queer over urban. Okay that will probably never really happen as you can take the boy out of the city but you can’t take the city out of the boy. What it has done though is made me aware of how much I took the scene for granted when we lived in a city. In Cornwall, we don’t have the same safe spaces that cities have, simple as that. We don’t have scenes to which you can escape to let your hair down, not without travelling hours to Plymouth. None of that matters though at CK Sunday’s because there is a feeling of inclusion, No matter how serious the world is out there, downstairs, you have you are welcomed, you belong and that is something that the world needs more of.
Thank you Crystal and Kelly for a truly incredible anniversary show and for giving us laughter, music, sing –a-longs but most importantly, for providing that space where it doesn’t matter how old you are or who you are, you are always welcomed. We love you girls!
Following on that weekend in London, on Saturday we celebrated hubby’s pre-birthday at Halfway to Heaven by taking two friends to see Rose Garden, a drag performer who has a special place in our hearts from the time we lived in London. I have written about Rose before but what made this show special was that our friend Cass, was a drag virgin and Rose did not disappoint in making her feel part of the show. The thing about drag is not only do the performers need to have a thick skin but so does the audience. If you haven’t seen Rose and are of a delicate demeanour, you’d probably walk out in disgust. Having grown up in Belfast during the 70’s, her jokes can take aim at everything from “The Troubles” to the current state of identification and classification within the LGBTQ community. She did both that Saturday. Rose and I disagreed on the term queer which I prefer but she does not: still after calling me out on it, we all agreed she was a BITCH and it was cemented in unison J. If you head down to her show, you’ll get that joke.
Splicing her own unique brand of jokes with old musical and tv classics from the theme to Laverne and Shirley to Cabaret and Rocky Horror, there is a comfort in knowing that there are performers who are still carrying the tradition of drag as I first encountered it over 25 years ago. Performers, who have paid their dues and have weathered the changing tides of the scene. It is too easy now for many to think that drag is all Drag Race instant celebrity when truth is for a long time, it existed behind blacked out windows where for a few hours you could forget the realities of life out there and laugh, drink and smile in a safe space. Where the success of the show depended on the connection with the audience. Rose keeps that magic alive.
To introduce friends to that experience on a Saturday at Halfway was extra special on a weekend celebrating hubby’s birthday. It was also our first experience seeing Morag McDuff who did manage to get our friend Cass on the stage. She did have the drag baptismal of fire that day. Here is another reason to head down to Halfway on a Saturday in case you aren’t convinced yet. Each time we have ventured down on a Saturday, we are introduced to new acts and this is how fan bases are traditionally created, at a grassroots level.
I was going to post about seeing Ripley’s Like A Sturgeon: Trump Tops at the RVT on March 9th upon my return from London but illness got in the way. Still, there is never a time limit on praise. In that time I was ill, Facbook also brought up a memory from a year ago that made me realise I don’t just want to write about, I need to write about and if you haven’t yet seen Ripley perform, you need to get your arse down to wherever she is on stage next. In fact, the next instalment of Like A Sturgeon: Fake News will be on Friday June 15, 2018 at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Get yourself a ticket here.
The memory that Facebook brought up was a year ago, hubby and I were downstairs at Halfway to Heaven watching Rose Garden when she brought Ripley on stage as her guest. You can read my original posting on that here. I was personally touched when she tweeted it as a reminder to remain defiant in her art. Not everyone needs to get what she does, but she needs to do what she does and if you ask me, in this day and age if you don’t get what she is doing, then you haven’t been paying attention. Wake up people, this is not a drill.
In that time, she has gone from strength to strength with her third instalment of Like A Sturgeon: Top Trumps at the RVT. Those who were in attendance will agree that she set the bar even higher than ever. As she told me, the show was three months in production and the reaction of the audience I hope made her realise how much it was all worth it. We had a friend visiting from New York who was floored by her performance and said to us that he wished performers in the US were doing what she does.
Returning characters like Nicola Sturgeon were present as was Melania, who this time was not the only Trump in attendance. Ripley brought out Donald, Ivanka, and even Byron. With the help of her drag daughter Elle, we were treated to Byron Trump (click here for video), Tiffany Trump and that sneaky Putin. If you go to Ripley’s Facebook page (click here) and see the videos, you will never think of Tatu’s “All the Things She Said” in the same light again.
As with previous shows, Like A Sturgeon was set to Ripley’s own pre-recorded voice, giving us insight into the political villains of the current time. Usually Theresa May and most recently Arlene Foster have been her choice of attack but this time, it was all Trump. Simultaneously scary and hilarious. The portrayals were like the Trump themselves, you are not really sure if what you are seeing is believable or a joke. Their sinister monologues were spliced with sound bites from the likes of Rhianna, Kate Bush, and so many more. A special mention to Bjork as Melania informs us of her own morning ritual in Hyperballad. Not just content with giving us this, the video in the background set to Madonna’s “What It Feels Like for a Girl” showed “Donald Trump” putting on make-up and women’s clothes was the stuff of YouTube viral dreams. If it were ever released to the public, I am sure that is where it would end up. Trump’s level of misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, racism, etc were given the treatment that would have caused his twitter calloused fingers to whittle down to the bone.
Swooping in at the very end, to give us that stern sensibility that has earned her the post of First Minister of Scotland and of course Mother of Dragons was Nicola Sturgeon. Performing her signature tune of Like A Sturgeon and giving us her wee insight into the state of the world, plus her obligatory dig at Theresa May. Ripley’s Sturgeon leaves us thinking that perhaps she may be the only sane political leader on this wee island of ours.
John Lugo-Trebble considers this more of a space to engage personal reflections and memories with connections to music and film.