IN CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTIAN ADORE
How did you get started with drag?
Drag started as a procrastination technique when I was studying for my finals at university. I was desperate for an excuse not to look at the mountain of books on medieval romances… So, it was either drag or learn how to make really good Espresso Martinis. I did both. I’m an overachiever. Teehee. I’d already been experimenting with binding my chest because I was going through a bit of a “gender, what are you and what are your intentions towards my body” moment. Due to health complications, I hadn’t had periods or a “womanly shape” for most of my life, and then during my final year of uni, I suddenly got ALL THE HORMONES and I freaked out a bit.
So it was at that rather stressful intersection of exams and my body deciding to be a lady, that I realised drag was something with which I wanted to play. I didn’t know what my relationship was to my very rapidly changing body, or gender, or… anything really. All I knew was that when I put on the makeup and the suits and stepped out into the world as Christian Adore, everything felt beautifully simple.
Has anyone influenced or shaped your drag?
Colin Hoult’s Anna Mann is a character comedian who was a real inspiration for me and my drag partner Eaton Messe when we were getting started, because – although he self-identifies as character comedy, not drag – the dark, quick humour and improve skills he uses with his audiences showed us the art of the possible. Also, the cast of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. They’ve pretty much achieved our idea of musical comedy nirvana.
In terms of aesthetic, Willy Cartier’s face was the template for my first forays into contouring. Thanks, bro.
How do people react to your drag?
It completely depends where I am. Amongst most liberal folk that I meet, the most salient response is one of excited shock: either people don’t know what a drag king is in the first place, or are surprised that “OMG THAT’S YOU?!”
Others are really compelled by the makeup and beauty of the art form, as well as the improv skills that we use in our shows. Drag sceptics, like my mum, were won around to the idea once she’d seen Dragprov’s full show, as she realised that LGBTQ+ art isn’t actually the ‘dirty’ or hyper-sexualised form she originally thought it was. Lots of older folk seem to associate drag with debased or irresponsible lifestyles which – in my experience – couldn’t be further from the truth!
The only time I get negative responses are when I’m travelling on public transport before and after gigs. I’ve had some really scary run-ins with homophobic groups of men, who shout things like “I’m going to f***ing kill you faggot” at you. I failed to point out at the time, due to the fear and whatnot, that they were using a very inaccurate term for the kind of gay that I am… but I’m not sure pedantry would have gone down too well.
Also, some drag queens don’t think kings are legitimate, skilled drag artists. But, I literally have no time for that. Thank u, next.
How do you feel about how mainstream drag is these days?
Mainstream drag has done my career a lot of favours. You get a lot of, “omg I LOVE drag. Trixie Mattel is EVERYTHING. YAS. QUEEN.” And that’s great. I just really hope that the mainstream Drag Race fans take the time to see local shows and patronise the shows and acts which are actually propelling the art form forwards in interesting ways.
Mainstream drag has blossomed alongside mainstream discourses around gender fluidity and trans identity, so I just hope that drag’s newfound popularity grows with and becomes a platform for, the plurality of queer identities in the LGBTQ+ community!
What made you decide to put on your own events?
Dragprov is not a conventional drag show. We are a musical improv double act, who make up songs, scenes, raps, even long-form two-hander musicals. We tell stories, with fully fleshed out characters, and early on in our development, we realised that we wanted an hour-long show to play with so that we could do justice to the stories and characters we created.
We now host a monthly show – The Velvet Curtain Club – at the Phoenix Arts Club in London, and we wanted to create a space where other queer comedians and drag guests could develop their sets outside of the cabaret circuit. Longer slots, with comedy audiences who had come for a comedy show, not a conventional drag show. Our drag characters Christian and Eaton are very well suited to hosting a night, and we wanted a chance to play with that more.
Tell us a bit about what we can expect from your events?
There isn’t another improv act doing what we do, and there isn’t another drag act doing it either. We’re a double act doing improvised musical comedy that is rooted in characters and the relationship between them, which the audience gets to see evolve on stage (while catching glimpses of the real friendship.
underneath the characters). It’s award-winning comedy, with musical theatre-styled songs created by trained musicians, and it’s family friendly.
Who are your favourite local drag acts?
We are big fans of Cinebra, so we’ll definitely be seeing Glenda and Rita and History of Horror at Brighton Fringe. We also love Felix Le Freak to pieces, and – in my personal opinion – she is one of the funniest, wittiest queens around.
I also love performing with Oedipussi Rex, whose attention to detail, act ideas, and costume design is second to none, and Kate Butch, who is the only person I know who has more niche knowledge of musical theatre than I do.
What have you got planned for the rest of 2019?
We’re plotting some appearances at the Underbelly on Southbank later in the summer, as well as Bristol Pride, Nottingham, and many more. It’s an exciting year for us, and we can’t wait.