“We’re changing what a drag show is. I’ll be singing in Arabic,” he says, and then gives a crotch-exposing pose.
I haven’t been backstage at many drag shows, but the mood isn’t what I expected.
A French-Canadian with the stage name Salammbo says this is the only place he’s done a drag show. “There is no woman in me trying to come out,” he says deadpan through heavy make-up.
“We’re all writers,” he says. I notice that, at present, everyone in the room is speaking in Icelandic, Swedish, French and English at once.
“How many of you are graduate students?” I ask.
“At least eighty percent,” he says.
He then gives a nervous laugh. “I’m so stressed.”
It is the first time I’ve seen anyone here not look fully self-assured. I ask if he’s suffering from stage fright.
“No. My partner got into a brawl last night and can’t go on stage.”
His partner, an Icelander going by the stage name Alexandra Gloppovich, is helping with backstage preparations. He sports fresh stitches over his left eye. He lets me get a good look at the injury and says, “There was a gay bashing last night.”
The show, held at Reykjavik’s oldest house and newest gay club, Jón Forseti, was more theatre than drag show. Closest, maybe, to a drag vaudeville. The opening number showcased a couple of dancers in French showgirl garb dancing and smiling maniacally, and breaking into flat-out pantomime and physical comedy. Following this, three nuns descended the staircase at stage right and presented a remarkably strong improv sketch that moved from bawdy to campy to relaxed and earnest as the nuns harmonized, monkeyed with instruments and provided a grad school style metadrag moment when a particularly shy nun was dressed up as a glamorous woman on stage and broke into “Dancing Queen.” The highlight of the evening was a pitch-perfect performance of a prissy blonde succumbing to alcoholism while putting on a cooking demonstration. (The actor’s resemblance to the host of the television show Folk added greatly to the amusement.) The evening also provided more standard drag fare, and, indeed, it also included an “Iraq in Drag” section, which brought the full house of Icelanders to tears, but left those of us from more politically correct backgrounds a little bewildered.
In the end, the show provided the relaxed anything goes atmosphere that Reykjavik’s nightlife badly needs. The Vanity and Hope for Wind in the Sail theatre group will continue to put on performances all summer before touring Iceland in the fall – it is obviously a cause worth contributing to and, more importantly, at ISK 500 their shows are also one of the best options for a night on the town. (A night “out” if you need the pun.)
Book your day tours in Iceland right here!