Boy in a Dress
Thought-provoking and fabulous drag-related cabaret
This article is from 2012.
Androgynous, third-gendered, ginger beauty La JohnJoseph makes a show-and-tell of the idea that all identity is a performance, and none more obviously than that which occurs on the stage, with his conflagration of gender theory, drag performance and recontextualised musical numbers. Claiming a politcal agenda of advocating acceptance of non-typical genders and sexualities, there is an element of preaching to the converted: those who buy tickets for Boy in a Dress are more than likely to already be on board with the concept.
In the spirit of changing façades, the Stand’s usual one guy/gal and a microphone set-up has been replaced and the venue is transformed into a seedily glamorous Greenwich Village-style cabaret bar. A closet sits centre stage, spewing forth incarnations of LJJ from different times in her life as he dons and discards outfits and personae as if flipping through a photograph album of her difficult childhood in Liverpool. His verbose script is genre-literate, whipping up song, autobiography, physicality and liberal quotation from the queer theory handbook into a glittering, whirlwind portrait of a tragic heroine. As well as a multitude of costumes, fellow performer Erin Hutching is on hand to enact various aspects of LJJ’s story, along with timely and hilarious interjections by stage manager Stephen Quinn, and all the constituent parts work together to dramatise the multifaceted nature of identity. From heartrending recollections of a homophobic Catholic school system to LJJ’s burgeoning self-expression in New York, the result is a non-stop sensory explosion of individual personality akin to the alternative drag performances of Jonny Woo. Though there are a few moments that feel like an essay on objectification, the material is at its most affecting when it shows rather than tells, something LJJ is more than capable of, in a dress, a tracksuit or, at times, in nothing at all …
The Stand III & IV, 558 7272, until 26 Aug, 4.20pm, £10.