It’s been called ‘the drag show at the end of the world’, brought to life by a performer who refers himself as a ‘drag fabulist’. If that doesn’t sound like two of the most wonderfully evocative descriptions of anything, ever, then this won’t be the show for you. But for the intrigued, the theatrically-minded, and the discerning audience of Homotopia, Dickie Beau’s Blackouts: Twilight of the Idols was a show capable of delighting and haunting in equal measure.
This was the premiere of an act that has evolved over time since Beau discovered tapes of Judy Garland talking into a dictaphone. For this full length show, he had uncovered similarly revealing recorded interviews with Marilyn Monroe, provided by journalist Richard Meryman, whom he in turn interviewed to become a third character in the piece. With a blend of clowning, mime and physical theatre, the words of these iconic women were heard anew, sometimes open to interpretation, sometimes heavy with pathos. Some of the recordings used had never been played in public before this premiere.
Twinning old technologies with new — the set comprises a heavy writing desk, typewriter, Bakelite telephone and reel-to-reel tape recorder, yet uses projection onto a gauze screen to superb effect — Beau creates a very unique piece. Worlds collide as retro and modern methods are used to striking effect.
Other divas make their presence known in Blackouts, and could have been similarly explored — Marlene Dietrich and Bette Davis possibly not meeting tragic, untimely enough ends for the needs of the show, but serving a purpose to further immerse the audience in that bygone age.
With his Pierrot-style make up, arms full of tattoos, and white boxers under Marilyn’s famous white dress, Beau’s grotesque interpretation of two of the world’s most beautiful women is not female impersonation. It’s a balancing act — too much one way and the show would descend into cheesy, knowing camp; another and it might disappear up its own backside. Instead, it is an absorbing, occasionally funny and touching work with a lot to say; examining the cost of celebrity and our own notions of beauty, ageing, and how a select few transcend it all to become immortalised. Another very special treat from Homotopia.
Here’s a taste: