REVIEW RuPaul’s Christmas Queens, O2 Institute

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What do you get when you mix five of the world’s most famous drag queens with a festive theme and a tipsy Brummie audience? A fantastic night out, that’s what.

To the crowd packed into the O2 Institute, these queens required no introduction; the venue was at capacity with superfans of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the reality TV phenomenon which celebrates queerness, creativity, and above all, throwing shade.

Longtime judge of the show Michelle Visage presided over the evening, commencing with a presidential address which condemned the division and hatred which has dominated so much of the discourse in 2016 (and conveniently poo-pooing any booing that might have taken place towards any of the less-popular personalities appearing that night).

The All Star on top of the tree was Alaska 5000, who proved that there’s more to her than unimaginative catchphrases (honestly, how did “hiiiiieeee” become a thing?) by taking to the stage with the diatribe of every little gay boy; how come Barbies are only handed out to girls on Christmas morning? And to anyone who says drag can’t be political; where else would you see a cross-dresser literally rip the head off a plastic Donald Trump?

Detox, the sculpted-by-silicone Venus De Milo of drag, surprised the audience with her genuine charisma and humour; her first appearance on the stage was a well-rehearsed musical collaboration with her own mother, all about the perfect festive recipe, while her second musical number, This Is How We Jew It, told the hilarious story of a vacuous white girl invited to a Hannukah dinner.

And then, of course, there is fan favourite Yekaterina Petrovna Zamolodchikova — but your dad just calls her “Katya”. This Russian gymnast hooker stole our hearts in All Stars 2 and she did the same again last night on stage, first by recounting her personal experiences of the German Market, then with her lewd retelling of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and finally with her drag persona ‘Trish’, who possesses an indescribable gruff smoker’s voice and self-proclaimed feminine mystique.

Manila Luzon, the funny fashion queen from a much earlier generation of the Drag Race dynasty, brought her usual charm and polish to proceedings, lip-syncing against Detox to Mariah Carey’s classic All I Want For Christmas Is You (and winning).

Rounding out the lineup was villainess-turned-cosplayer-turned-villainess-again Phi Phi O’Hara. Frankly, it was more than a little surprising that Phi Phi even showed up to the tour, given all of the bad blood between her and RuPaul — but it was also a smart move on her part. The poor thing must be struggling to book gigs at the moment. To her credit, Phi Phi gave it her all, singing live with less autotune than some of the other Drag Race queens, albeit with less panache. One got the feeling that to her, the Christmas Queens tour was a sales pitch for her album — and an unsuccessful one at that.

Simply put, a gay old time was had by all. And to any newbies, do yourselves a favour. The best Christmas present you can give yourself this year is to binge every season of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

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