Fugly is set to be a one-night art-drag Armageddon, where you can tranny-out alongside the crème de la femme of Fringe. Co-creator Declan Greene speaks to James May.
Declan Greene and Ash Flanders are the Sisters Grimm, a much-loved part of Melbourne’s theatre/alternative tranny scene. They’ve been working together for more than five years, although they didn’t start out as a drag theatre company, Declan tells me. “Around 2006 there was a lot of theatre being produced that was a knee-jerk reaction to the Howard era. We wanted to do something different – something fun and trashy as an alternative.”
Declan says that drag is a fun texture to play with and has become a popular component of the Sisters Grimm repertoire. With the visibility of performers like Lady Gaga and shows like Priscilla the Musical, Declan says that drag is back in the public consciousness, although he believes that the mainstream fare has become quite tedious. “Dressing up is a queering force that can shake things up when used to its full potential. The act of dressing up and blurring gender boundaries is always a political act,” he says.
Declan writes and directs while Ash does most of the performing. The pair is renowned for their psychotic/politico/lesbian drag as well as female prison drag. Fugly is more of a big party than anything else, punctuated with all kinds of performances. The Sisters Grimm have challenged their artist friends to step out in drag for the first time alongside Melbourne’s finest/foulest alt-trannies. “It’ll be an opportunity to tranny-out alongside the crème de la femme of Fringe,” he quips.
The show will feature roving performances and some of the city’s finest DJ’s including Whiskey Houston and Sex Axe of Rat Vs Possum. While another local group, ‘The Rabble’, may be doing a live show involving a heavily pregnant woman, Declan reveals. The Sisters have also flagged a hot-hog eating contest, pyrotechnics, muscle worship, public execution, vomitorium and sploshing – although some of this might be sheer hyperbole, Declan teases. “It’s going to be four hours of mayhem. It’s a party inside a show and anything can happen.”
The ‘Queens’ who are headlining the night include Mummy Complex, Count Jackula, Glass of Water, Dawn Serviced and Ash Flanders. While multi-award winning writer/performer Angus Cerini will be doing “female body-builder drag” and Sydney-based performance collective Post will also make their drag debut. “It’s for one night only and we want the focus to be on the crowd,” Declan says. “We hope the audience will fugly it up as well – we want people to put their worst foot forward.”
The Sisters want to challenge people to get into drag because Declan says there’s not many inspiring drag acts going on in Melbourne right now. “The possibility for it as a means of expression has become quite complacent. So many performers think they can just throw on a frock and do the same old thing. We want to create an electric atmosphere where the shocking and subversive can happen. We don’t want the audience to have the usual passive experience. We want people to have a great time.”
Fugly will be a mix of great Melbourne alternative drag as well as people who wouldn’t normally get into that kind of thing. The Sisters have never worked on this scale before but the Fringe Club can hold a large crowd. “The organisers approached us to come up with a ‘wrong night’ – something that pushes the boundaries. So we’ve invited the most cutting-edge artists in Melbourne with interesting and experimental practices to showcase. We’re proud that the Fringe has thought of us to do this.”
Fugly is a free event so the Sisters hope to draw big numbers – they want the audience to get into the spirit of the evening and help shake things up. “There’s going to be ‘fuglifying’ make-overs for audience members who are up for it,” Declan says. “We might just get 500 tubes of the worst hot-topic lipstick we can find and go to town. It could be a good idea to wear your most glamorous raincoats.”
Fugly won’t be anything highbrow, Declan assures me. It’ll be reminiscent of the shocking, titillating performances you might see in nightclubs in London and New York – something we’re quite unaccustomed to here in Melbourne. The Sisters want to bring theatre and performance art into the nightclub setting and believe that people are eager to receive this kind of art in a nightclub forum.
Declan says they’re interested in stripping theatre back to its barest conventions while still leaving it recognisable as theatre. “We want to take theatre out of the theatre. We want it to be live and exciting.”
Fugly, The Fringe Club (Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall, 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne) on September 24 at 9pm – 1am. Free event – head to www.melbournefringe.com.au for more information.