Throw on a moustache, stuff a sock in your pants and toast this years new drag king; as jonny woo welcomes the king’s to the stage in the final heat of ‘man up’ tonite at the glory
Grab some balls, a double vodka or two and sit back and enjoy the show; as illustrious cabaret superstar Mr.Jonny Woo welcomes the King’s to the stage and hosts another …ahem.. “glorious” round of London’s most renowned Drag King competition ‘Man Up’.
Tonite’s grand finale brings together the winner’s from the 6 previous heats to find out whose really “the man”, who will receive this year’s title, and the grand prize of 1000 bucks!
There’s chicks with dicks, cello taped chest hair, a ton of sequins, a contestant named ‘Gusher’, and if your lucky enough as I was my night on the judging panel…you might even see someone staple a deck of cards to their inner thighs!!!!
I caught up with fellow ‘Man-Up’ judge, creator of BOiBOX, heartthrob and supremely multi-talented performer Adam All to chat about this years competition, London’s scene, and what he’s looking for in the perfect Drag King!
Hey Adam! You’re one of the hottest tickets in London’s Drag King community!!! You’re also a regular judge and host of ‘Man-Up’ How’s this year’s talent holding up with last years?
ADAM ALL: We had a lot of talent last year, some really spectacular routines that continue to live on, and characters that have become favourites on the scene. This year is no different, we are seeing some of last years competitors come back having massively upped their games, and I think they deserve serious praise for their determination and persistence. I think we have a little more diversity this year and a little more completely ‘fresh meat’, and I’m seeing some new faces that may have been intimidated by the first round really ‘finding their balls’ this time which is heartwarming to say the least. Of course, we will be poaching as many as possible for BOiBOX! haha
What are you looking for in the perfect Drag King performance?
Ok, so I’m looking for conviction, a story teller, a statement maker. I want to see the whites of their eyes and the power of their hearts.
A perfect routine for me is one that is polished and solid, gives everything succinctly without excess!
Things like ‘passing’ physically are not necessary, embodying the character is far more important. They are representing a scene; so inclusiveness even within strong politics is essential, and I would like to see creativity and uniqueness. Drive! Inspiration! Courage! and Kickassness..ess!!!
You’ve had a couple of your own drag son’s on the stage as well! Watching them perform; what takes over more.. Pride or nerves?
I’ve seen many of my friends perform, I suppose you could call some my drag sons and I’d be a proud Dad to call them that!!! I’m definitely not nervous for them, I’m pleased to see them giving it some up there and showing all these new people how much talent has been growing in the Drag King scene. Many of them are BOiBOX regulars so I’m like, ‘See! See, you lot, these guys are AMAZING!’ I get awful nerves myself, perhaps I feel a bit of that but it’s far more likely to be excitement!
Do you have a favourite for the winner of Man Up?
I do not have a favourite, I love them all! Theres such variety and at this stage they are all winners, the recognition and opportunity to perform far exceeds the prize in the end, which sounds corny but its true! The scene is ever expanding, ever evolving and this could be just the beginning for some of them, for others its another gig in another awesome venue, and the future of their careers is open and exciting. Drag Kings win!!!
Being such a major part of the scene, how have you seen London’s Drag King and female drag community change?
The drag scene as a whole has been changing for a little while now, particularly for women and gender non binary performers with the rise of Faux Queens at the same time as Kings. I would say thats’ a feminist success story, but we aren’t there yet… in representation at least. Huge leaps have been made in acceptance and respect of Drag King performers over the last 5 or 6 years, aided by many people across the industry recognising a need and a want for the scene to develop.
Speaking of big leaps and bounds…tell me about BOiBOX?
BOiBOX was launched in September of 2013 at Candy Bar in Soho which was shut due to gentrification in January 2014 and we subsequently moved to She in Soho where we have been ever since. The night was launched for the sake of the Drag King community, to give unlimited and exclusive access to a regular, respected stage for new and established Drag King performers. Its since become a haven for developing acts,building strong freindships and bringing Drag Kings into the public eye! Not only in the centre of Soho, but also in many magazines and newspapers like DIVA, Timeout, The Guardian to name a few, as well as on National TV for BBC Newsbeat.
All in all its one hell of a fun party!!! Each month is themed,and our Kings bring a themed performance, along with one or two performance we have in mind and myself and co-host Apple Derrieres perform a closing routine. We’ve had everything from Teddy Bears Picnic, Heroes and Villains , even Star BOi – a sci-fi themed night that brought out our inner geek, and of course Apple and I are always in our carefully matched costumes!
Speaking of coordinated costumes…lord knows you can work a bold suit!!! How many do you own? What’s your favourite?
Ha! I have something in the region of 15 suits, at least twice that in shirts, and again in bowties and matching braces of all different colours, not including a full welsh guards outfit, a second world war army uniform, a pilot uniform, a fawn costume and a medieval outfit! haha I really enjoy wearing the velvet suits, and I have a brown 3 piece that fits like a glove. To be honest its one of my favourite parts of the job.
Do you have a muse/Drag King or performer who you look up too ?
I wouldn’t say there is one single person that has inspired me to perform in Drag. There have been many influences through the years, one of the earliest being ‘Tipping the Velvet’ which, being of a certain age when it was first adapted for TV, I was deeply touched by. I’ve had a lot of support from some fantastic people along the way, not least my tireless partner, and I continue to be inspired by my brothers on the scene as it evolves; I hope I never stop evolving along with it!
What do you have planned for Pride this year?
This year at Pride in London we are hosting performances at a night called Gold Pride at The Glory, orchestrated by Virginia ‘Gusher’ Wilson, expect to see some familiar Drag King faces, the winner of Man Up will automatically be offered a slot that night, though they may already be on the bill! You’ll have to watch this space!
Despite your own success, knowing you only for a short time I can see how much you really champion other performers. Are you always on the look out for new talent?
I literally live to help emerging talent and I think many of our regulars at BOiBOX will tell you that! So yes I am always hunting for new Kings, pushing those unsure to give it a go and encouraging and promoting those who make it into the broader cabaret network. It’s always been about liberation, equality, representation and respect for me, so the more the merrier.
I’m very proud to have so many Kings around me now, and I’m particularly inspired by the intrepid performers who are banding together and touring, who are running their own nights, who are forging onward, its awe inspiring and I’m going to keep doing what I do because what we are saying needs to be said, and what we are doing is integral to the fight for equality.
‘Man Up’ The Grand Finale is on Tonite
at The Glory London | 8PM Prompt!
www.adamall.co.uk | BOiBOX is the Last Thursday of Every Month www.she-soho.com/whats-on
Words by Tracy Kawalik & Adam All
Portraits by Peter Fingleton
Additional Photos by Tracy Kawalik, The Glory, Man-Up, and as Credited Above