Tonight we went to see TheatreofplucK's D.R.A.G. at the Courtyard Theatre in Ballyearl.
I wasn't really sure what to expect as I had missed the nudity and strong language warnings on the flyer. However I knew that it would be special because Niall Rea and Paul Boyd were involved.
In a lovely touch before the show had even started, the Director spoke to the audience in small groups, telling us a story and asking us for a contribution. Then we were ushered into the main theatre space where we could finish our drinks. We were then directed behind the curtains and asked to sit around an intimate cube-shaped set. What followed was a fantastic piece of theatre, not perfect, but thought provoking, well acted and indeed, Gorgeous.
It was easy to see that a lot of work had gone into pulling these stories and experiences together. The show is built around the experiences of a man growing up and coming out during the Troubles. We watch his painful metamorphosis as he attempts to find his identity, gradually blossoming into the King of Queens.
At the post show discussion, a question was asked about whether the Director had been purposefully controversial with the show. Was he aiming to shock people with full frontal nudity, bad language or political imagery on the postcards? The questioner had a valid point - that when she asked her friends to come to this kind of show, their answer would be 'No, that's not my kind of show'.
But when I think of my own religious straight friends, I could convince them to attend a show with full-frontal male nudity. I could get the same friends to attend a show about paramilitaries. I could get them to attend a show with bad language. But I couldn't get them to attend a show named D.R.A.G.
And this is the sad truth - nudity, paramilitaries and bad language have become such a common everyday thing that these are deemed 'normal'. Everyone has heard bad language, everyone has seen nudity and paramilitaries were the norm for many years here in NI. But how many people actually know a drag queen? A transvestite? Not that many. The most controversial thing about this show is the man putting on his makeup, his wig, his tutu and finding an identity which is different to the norm.
I found the show thought provoking, humorous and at times uncomfortable. While TheatreofplucK describe themselves as 'Northern Ireland's first publicly funded queer theatre company', and D.R.A.G. is part of the Pride Festival, I don't believe the show is only for the LGBT community.
By the way Niall, if you're reading this, Sean Paul's very tightly folded piece of paper said 'Joyful Memories'.
I'll leave you to interpret exactly what that means!