The RuPaul’s Drag Race winner charmed Liverpool with her first city appearance
An extra earner on a night off from the larger Comedy Queens tour, Bianca del Rio stopped by Liverpool gay bar Heaven last night for a quick club appearance courtesy of the first promoters to finally start bringing Drag Race contestants to the city, Klub Kids (thank you, Klub Kids!).
Season six winner Bianca, AKA Roy Haylock, has serious talent. She can fill theatres all over the world with her one-woman shows, she made her own movie Hurricane Bianca, and famous fans include Graham Norton and the late Joan Rivers, but drag clubs are where it all began, and her enthusiasm for the gig still shines through some twenty years later.
That’s why her appearance was so special and why I’m writing about it here, as short club spots don’t tend to warrant the review treatment. But! Bianca’s attention to detail, passion for performance, superb comic timing, unflappable professional chops (ooer) and genuine interest in her audience combine to create something wonderful.
She did a bit I’ve seen her do before, eventually acting as hostess to a Lipsync for Your Life competition with members of the audience – but I’ve never watched so close up as to really appreciate the talent as a performer that it takes to pull off such a game.
First of all, Bianca’s look was pristine. A beautifully cut red sequinned dress dazzled in the light and accentuated her figure; her wig was big and immaculate; her trademark clown look actually very flattering and flawless.
She picked five very different audience members to perform, and this is where her skill really shone through and things got interesting, because among the filthy jokes and insults she is famed for she had a superlative instinct for putting each contestant at ease and getting the crowd on their side, or teasing them as much as she could gauge they could take.
When one girl got shy, Bianca gave her an on-stage pep talk that allowed her to perform with confidence; the more attention-seeking boys were on the receiving end of our hostess’s famously sharp and devilish wit. She crafted the competition and curtailed the performances at the right time to keep things flowing, encouraging and mocking the contestants in equal measure as required.
Anyone could just phone in a spot like this to a hard-drinking, late night party crowd, take the money and run – but Bianca had an amazingly intuitive connection with everyone she came into contact with, and a real instinct for entertaining a really rather diverse crowd. It was really something special. As a comic and compère she is fast and fierce, with no situation she wasn’t ready to handle on the spot. Alright, so it was hardly masterpiece theatre; but it gave a great insight into how hard you have to work to pull a seemingly trivial slot like that off well, and the difference it makes when you really care about what you do.
At the aftershow meet and greet, I’ve never seen a queen – or any celebrity, for that matter – make so much time for fans and welcome them so warmly. Just when it seems you can’t love Bianca del Rio more, she just gets better. Here’s hoping she comes back to Liverpool again.