08th Nov2022

‘Queens for the Night’ Review

by Rhys Payne

One of my greatest accomplishments to date is the fact that aged eleven I was interviewed by Britain’s longest-serving TV breakfast host and queen of morning TV Lorraine Kelly! This was one of the greatest experiences as me and my family were whisked up from our humble home in Cardiff, put on a train (which even then was an extravagant cost) and put into the penthouse suite of the extremely ostentatious Park Plaza Hotel in the heart of central London to talk to Lorraine about the positive effects that Slimming World had had on me. The entire episode was dedicated to debating whether or not young children should be able to join slimming programmes such as Slimming World and I was the ambassador for such groups and the idea of healthy swaps rather than dieting! This was such a surreal experience for my younger self as I was able to see the behind-the-scenes processes of a TV show we would frequently watch as a family and we were able to see what the filming process is really like which people don’t get to see unless they are invited. Lorraine is known for being an extremely kind and friendly personality on TV she is even nicer in real life and this is why she has such a special place in the hearts of the nation. Since this experience on going on her show, my love of Lorraine has only grown with a signed photo of her having pride of place on my bedroom wall! I have even managed to cleverly include Lorraine in my presentation skills lesson for my students in school so they are also now aware of my love for this national treasure. When it was announced that the icon that is Lorraine Kelly would be hosting a new show celebrating the art form of drag (which is another one of my passions) then I knew it was a programme I must tune into!

This brand new one-off special called Queens for the Night saw a plethora of famous faces being coached by some of the UK’s most iconic drag icons to take on their own personal drag makeovers to deliver a performance in one of the many sections of drag culture. On top of the inclusion of the nation’s favourite morning TV show host and one-time alias of the iconic drag personality Morning Gloria (which is a brilliant name by) Lorraine Kelly, this show also included a plethora of wonderful famous faces in both judging and coaching roles throughout the episode. On the judging panel for this programme were the star of the first ever season of Australian Idol, top three competitor in Drag Race US season six and the winner of season twenty-one of Celebrity Big Brother UK back in 2018, Courtney Act, who was without a doubt the most qualified judge to assess both the transformation and performance of the brand new queens! As a fan of musical theatre, we were overjoyed when it was announced that the star of stage and screen Layton Williams would be joining the judging panel as I personally have seen him slay the stage in some of the most fabulous roles including Angel in Rent, Jamie in Everybody’s Talking About Jaime and shockingly Seaweed in Hairspray. Layton obviously has a passion for drag and has performed within the Avenue of musical theatre multiple times and so he is also a great authority to have on both the drag make-over and performance elements of this show! Another one of the judges for this drag celebration was none other than Melanie C (aka Sporty Spice) who is most well known for her contribution to the Spice Girls and also recently appeared at pride Cymru! Mel C was obviously invited to the panel for her support of the LGBT+ community and her expertise in performing. Completing the judge’s panel was the brilliantly funny Rob Beckett (who we were lucky enough to see perform a few years ago). Fans of Rob’s work will know that he recently took part in his own drag transformation alongside Romesh Ranganathan on their TV show and he was also able to provide constructive support for the one queen in this show doing stand-up. While I love Rob as a comedian and despite his entertaining contributions to discussions, I do think he seemed a bit out of place in this line-up of judges and I personally thought that the eccentric Tom Allen could have been a better fit!

As well as these celebrities’ judges, the production team on this show decided to bring in some of the UK’s most recognisable drag personalities to help the celebrities through their drag transformations. What is very interesting about this show is that the drag mentors appeared both in full drag on the stage but when training the contestants they are out of drag. Seeing drag icons out of drag was not only very interesting but also allowed the conversations between the pairings to be much more emotionally driven and powerful.

First up was the drag icon that is Myra DuBois, who is is probably most well-known for her performance on Britain’s Got Talent in 2020. Coronation Street star Simon Gregson was the first celebrity to be introduced to the crowd under his new alias Bidet Bardot and would be delivering a stand-up routine. We actually see Myra and Simon workshopping a series of comedy sequences which is nice as we don’t usually get to see the process of preparing comedy routines on TV and this can be extremely intense and a key part of the process! A highlight of this stand-up routine from Simon/Bidet was when they turned to Lorraine Kelly and said something along the lines of ‘Lorraine you are incredibly proud of your Scottish roots but I think they need to be redone’ and also ‘Some many people wake up to Lorraine …. But we won’t be talking about that’ which, despite my love of Lorraine, had me audibly chuckling! This entire act was hilarious and so (spoiler alert) it made total sense when he was declared as the overall winner of the episode! The next drag mentor we are introduced to is the nicest queen I have ever met La Voix! To celebrate my Auntie’s 65th birthday, we decided to book a ticket to the Cardiff section of La Voix’s Eighth Wonders of the World tour (which you can read about here) and I decided to drop the queen a message with the intention of a small shout out of my Auntie’s birthday. Not only did we get this but La Voix invited my Auntie on the stage to sing and dance while also offering her a badge and furry slippers, which made her day so incredibly special and so for this both me and Auntie will be entirely grateful! Working with this generous queen was the star of Union J, George Shelley (who would be performing under the drag moniker of Dame Shelley Sassy), who would be delivering a live singing performance later in the night. Before gracing the stage George discussed how he signed up for the show as a way of celebrating his newfound queerness which fundamentally is the purpose of drag! I have to say that Dame Shelley looked absolutely stunning in a crushed mirror gown and even managed to squeeze in a series of costume and wig reveals throughout the extremely fun number. I thought it was brilliant inclusion that this performance ended with Dame Shelley ending in a red wig which paid homage to her mentor La Voix who is known for her iconic red hairstyle!

The next drag mentor we are introduced to is Asttina Mandella who rose to fame for her time on Drag Race UK season two. She would work with the iconic 80s fitness instructor Mr Motivator who let his mentor know that he is very close to being seventy years old which I have to admit he looks (and moves) incredibly well for his age! Mr Motivator will be using the drag personality of Proteina Turner which is a brilliant name that touches on his fitness roots and one of my favourite artists Tina Turner. Despite this nod to the Proud Mary singer, Proteina would be doing a Cher lip-sync which I personally thought was a strange choice. He graced the stage in one of the largest wigs I have seen in a very long time with a series of costume reveals ending with them in a costume with light-up chest sections which was fantastic! Next up was probably one of the most controversial winners of any modern Drag Race season, the queen of Drag Race UK vs The World (which we are eagerly anticipating the return of Drag Race Canada vs The World) and Northern Irish legend Blu Hydrangea who interestingly would be coaching her partner Jo Marler through a drag magic performance. I don’t fully understand why Blu of all people was given the magic performance as this did not fit with what we have seen from her so far but the choice of naming her drag daughter Trixie made me giggle! Joe made a point of explaining to his mentors how he wanted to keep his beard and opted to showcase one of the most sparkly and fabulous glitter beards I have ever seen! The comedy and magic act was very entertaining and Trixie is clearly very confident in front of an audience where he ended his act with an incredible misdirection/escapism trick where they surprised the judges by suddenly appearing behind them.

Earlier this year we were able to attend the Cardiff night of Welsh drag icon Victoria Scone (who will be appearing in the upcoming Drag Race Canada vs The World season) ‘Jam Packed’ tour, which you can read about here, where the next drag mentor Margo Marshal appeared as a backing dancer so we knew they are a very talented performer. She would be tutoring her partner Chris Hughes from Love Island season three in a fancy heavy performance. It was very clever that Orla Feels (Chris’s drag personality) was clearly the most nervous about their performance but I thoroughly enjoyed how the number began with the Love Island catchphrase “I’ve got a text” around the stage and I thought it was brilliant that Orla was able to pull out an incredible death drop to bring the act to an end. I also think however that the individual sections of the camp medley performance were too short which made the full routine very stoppy starty and at times made it a very segmented viewing experience for the audience. The final performance of the night was from none other than Eastender star Adam Woodyatt who would be coached by a top three competitor from Drag Race UK season three, Kitty Scott-Claus. The Ian Beale actor delivered a much more classy performance as Madame Mimi D’youyou in a wonderful gown and a fabulous up-do in a series of musical impressions. This act has however caused a lot of drama online as it appeared that Kitty had forced the actor to perform more impressions than Adam was comfortable with/wanted to do. While there were a few entertaining performances such as Mrs Piggy, Donald Trump and Boris Johnson (cleverly timed to fit the “I fall apart” lyric of the iconic Bonnie Tyler song) but there were many questionable impressions throughout. I was also a little confused as the production team seemed to skip over the section of the song where Mimi did a Lorraine impression that would have gone down very well! I thought it was a brilliant idea to have the audience and judges vote live to decide the top three queens of the week. This makes the audience feel valued and if show ever makes a return then I would love to be a part of the crowd as it seems like an extremely fun experience! In a pageant-style presentation of the winning ceremony, we saw Orla (Chris Hughes) claim third place, Proteina (Mr Motivator) claim second and Bidet (Simon Gregson) declared as the overall winner of the episode which I have to admit I totally agree with!

Overall, Queens for the Night was a very fun celebration of the art form of drag with every performer having honest and moving conversations about the range of reasons they signed up to the show. I thought it was very interesting to see some of the UK’s biggest drag icons both in and out of drag helping deliver what was generally a very entertaining series of performances. The inclusion of magic in this drag celebration was a unique one as it is not something you associate with this art form but it was a brilliant inclusion! From a personal perspective, I enjoyed seeing a plethora of familiar faces including the breakfast TV icon and much loved Lorraine Kelly!

****½  4.5/5


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