Courtney Act – 'They might not realise that I'm not actually a woman and be in for a very steep learning curve'
- Arusa Qureshi
- 9 August 2017
Aussie drag superstar Courtney Act tells Arusa Qureshi she plans to keep things upbeat in her new Fringe show with a celebration of all things Oz
Let me set the scene. It's the day after the UK general election. Following in the wake of Brexit and Trump, uncertainty and confusion are looming in every direction, and while everything seems to be collapsing around us with no sign of escape, somewhere in London, Australian drag superstar Courtney Act is promoting a show in which she intends to help you do just that: escape.
'Interestingly when I was putting together this show, it was just before the elections in the US,' she explains. 'And I thought about doing a political show and then realised that I just wanted to do something fun because people want an escape.'
The show in question, The Girl From Oz, may not be political in its content but it's a clever and witty glimpse into the mind of one of the world's most popular drag queens, with added singing, dancing and all-round hilarity.
'It's just a big fun celebration of Australian pop music and pop culture. I've been living overseas for the last seven years and I just wanted to cure a little homesickness and also bring a bit of Australia to the world. There are so many songs that I knew were Australian but I was shocked that other people didn't. I hope that everybody knows that 'Down Under' is Australian otherwise if they come and see the show, they might also not realise that I'm not actually a woman and be in for a very steep learning curve.'
As a former runner-up in RuPaul's Drag Race, Courtney has been a mainstay in the world of drag for some time, profoundly aware of her influence in this niche yet colossal cultural phenomenon. Some may see Drag Race as just another reality TV show, but beyond the familiarity of the formidable judge / gifted contestant format is something greater; a unique insight into gay culture, a lesson in LGBTQ history and a celebration of difference, much needed in today's increasingly conservative political climate.
For Courtney, the show has been life-changing in many ways, leading to unimaginable opportunities and also an unexpected sense of personal development. But on a grander scale, the impact the show has had on wider discussions of gender and sexuality has been immense.
'The gay community has had a sometimes tumultuous relationship with non-queer people coming to their shows,' she explains, 'because it was tourism, like using the queer spaces as a form of comic relief or entertainment. I think it's really cool that Drag Race has created this space where so many different kinds of people can come together and socialise and have fun on equal terms. Drag can make you a little more fearless and I think girls especially love drag because they get to see somebody define their own standard of feminine beauty.'