Brag Drunch

ACF-Brag-Drunch-Arran-Beattie-aka-Marion-Westfield-and-Steph-Daughtry-photo-by-Cassie-AckermanApparently, some think that drag performing only started in 2009 with Ru Paul’s Drag Race. To fill in the gaps, they could watch a documentary. But this is an Adelaide Cabaret Festival, and company “Post dining” have hit on a more novel and immersive way to educate an audience.

They’ve used snippets of Queer history to inspire some tasty morsels, and serve this up with a range of drag performances in Brag Drunch. (Well, “Drag Brunch” was already copyrighted!)

Post dining, founded in 2015, emerged from time our hosts – Drag King Steph Daughtry and Drag Queen Marion Westfield (Arran Beattie) – spent in the hospitality sector. They thought that food could add a new dimension to storytelling. They must have been on to something, as the company received the Frank Ford Commissioning Award to produce this appetising show.

Many festival punters clearly saw its appeal, patiently lining up to take a mimosa on their way into the Space Theatre, set up with cabaret seating.  There was a wild start, which would have been unfortunate if (just for example) you were at Mark Nadler’s 10:30pm Hootenanny the previous night, rashly went to Hindley Street after, and got back to your hotel in the early hours.

Anyway … introductory remarks from Daughtry and Westfield informed us that we would see contributions from a selection of South Australian drag artistes in this “decadent de-GAY-station”. Across the session, courses (involving Chef consultant Water Lo) were introduced by the well-heeled Maître Didi (Matthew Barker), who noted that many of us had dressed “affordably”. Well, could it have been a real drag performance without some amount of sass? Didi also earned some laughs by producing a flag for the straights in the house.

Energetic and blokey youngster F*ckboi George (Ellen Graham) gave some insights into drag from the time of the ancient Greeks to “Willy Shakes”. Some of us might have found it a little difficult to juggle our attention between the oratory and, as serving staff approached, the plate of tasty canapes that might have been whisked away shortly.

Glamorous elder Queen Kris del Vayze gave accounts of the LGBTIQ protest movement from the mid 20th century, including around the Stonewall Club riots of 1969. Whilst some might feel that this is fairly well-known territory, the audience did skew quite a bit younger than a typical cabaret crowd.

There was also a summary of activities by The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in Australia at the time of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. (The Australian House of this order from San Francisco certainly had some notable figures and substantial, if generally under-appreciated local influence.)

Other interesting connections between history and the menu included a team effort (including instructive projections from Videographer/Editor Brendan Levi) to tell of hostility towards the queer community in the US by the head of an orange advertising campaign. This led to a modified screwdriver named in her “honour”, the “Anita Bryant Cocktail”, pointedly orange free, which gained widespread exposure through acts of solidarity across the USA.

However, there were also elements that featured the fun and self-expression of drag. Annie Schofield informed us that sometimes, some of us, might just want to sit at home with the cat. However, they demonstrated how dressing up (or down) could be a liberating experience.

Having glimpsed the past and present, our company wanted to consider what the future of drag could look like. This provided a natural lead-in to, via screen, a performance from Australian Indigenous performer Estelle (Kaine Sultan Babij of Whyalla). Bathed in laser light, the high-energy lip-synch with dance moves was paired with a dessert dish with a suitable amount of colour and theatre.

People don’t watch documentaries so much anymore, but they quite like to have brunch. Capitalising on that, this “world premiere” effort has found a smart and snappy way to preserve lessons from the past for a new audience. It’s also clear that the programme has made a genuine effort to explore the different sparkly facets of the queer experience.

Brag Drunch
Space Theatre – Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Road, Adelaide
Performance: Sunday 18 June 2023 – 11.00am

Image: Arran Beattie (aka Marion Westfield) and Steph Daughtry in Brag Drunch – photo by Cassie Ackerman

Review: Jason Whyte