On the basement dance floor of Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’s I was welcomed into Queer Theory’s cabaret world. Having spoken to the organiser Dean Cargill, I was eagerly anticipating the acts to come. This was their fifth event, and I was impressed by the size of the crowd, and the good mix of newcomers and regulars. Each act was inspiring, experimental and above all unique. I asked Cargill what he had aimed for in creating these nights, and how difficult had it been in setting it up:
“To be honest it’s all come about very quickly. Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’s is a great venue to work with. The sound is always top class for the bands, and the space has the perfect vibe for us. I love the feeling of a cabaret show happening in a dark basement which feels very secluded from the outside world.”
Cargill emphasised the huge number of queer performers in Glasgow, such as Frankie Mulholland, Katy Dye, Merlin Nova and Craig Manson. He cites his main aim in starting Queer Theory was to give a stage to some of those talented queer friends in Glasgow.
He also had a personal stake in it, giving a platform to his band, and meeting their artistic needs better. “The name for the night came from my band Black Doves album: An Introduction to Queer Theory,” said Cargill, “As a band, we feel better suited to performing alongside drag queens, performance artists, comedians, spoken word artists rather than just other bands.”
Cargill spoke of his desire to create a space for experimentation and challenge, especially political challenge. He cites Pride as an example of a political movement gone corporate: “That’s why events like Free Pride at the Art School are so important to fight against the over-commercialization of mainstream gay spaces and Pride. For that reason, I only book performers for Queer Theory who I feel are doing something experimental or have something interesting to say.”
Indeed, all of the acts I saw had something to say by pushing at the boundaries. Harry Giles, poet, dressed in a glamorous black sequined dress, read poems that varied from a reaction to the bizarre government restrictions and laws on pornography called The Following Content is Acceptable, to Slash fiction inspired Slash poetry about Harry Giles and Harry Styles. Following Giles came Merlin Nova as Dave the Rabbit, a girl wearing small heels, shorts and an orange fluorescent hat with bunny ears, orange glasses and an orange moustache. Her persona was an east London father of two with a strong accent who parodies electro dubstep rap music, to the wild amusement of the crowd.
After this came Katy Dye’s strange, chip-wielding ode to Britain, then followed by actor Ross Wylie performing Dan Just Dan, a monologue along the banks of the River Thames, on the experience of Grindr.
This environment of openness, inclusiveness, and wonderful variety was praised by audience member Rose Jackson, a student at Glasgow University: “It’s good to come and push your Inboundaries, but also its just nice to be around people like you.” She went on to say that “you just always know it’s gonna be a fun night!” a sentiment shared by most of the people I chatted to. Past events were described to me with genuine enthusiasm and love for Queer Theory, which is so great to see for an independent cabaret barely beginning.
Queer Theory is also attracting interest from other local events such as Only Skin. I chatted to Cairan McLaggan, one third of the Only Skin team, and asked him what it was that interested him:
“I’m really interested in non-conformative, queer performance in Glasgow, and Queer Theory does exactly what it says on the tin. There’s a lack of a forum in the mainstream for queer people to express themselves or have the freedom to be crude and dirty without fear of judgement, and events like Queer Theory create a space for that.”
Poet Michael Louis Kennedy, my personal standout of the evening, performed his poem I Am Not a Breakfast Food which incorporates Schrödinger’s cat and the expectation of the bisexual box, where ‘there’s a 50 percent chance [he] likes cocks’, and where he feels expected to keep some sort of even ratio between male and female. His next poem was “about trash” and to perform it he stripped out of his very nice patterned shirt, put a bin bag around his shoulders and covered his face in golden glittery paint. He talked about the fact that actually, he does like glitter and parade floats and other such things deemed trashy and his poem describes a golden banana skin as the most beautiful object around him.
Following Kennedy, comes Artiflora, performance artist, who walked onto the stage in drag, glitter smothered around his mouth and ate a bag of three pomegranates. He begins eating them, biting into a whole pomegranate and then spitting out the hard skin onto the floor. He looked completely insane with bright red dripping from his mouth and onto the white sheet he wore as a robe. Half way through, he starts to offer the audience to take a bite, at which point, our poet Kennedy returns and is partially force fed the rest of the pomegranate in a way that was sort of dirty and sort of sweet. The contrast of these two performances capture the ability to share and express frustrations in a safe environment, and then the ability to just be dirty and mad and push people’s boundaries, which is something I loved about the whole atmosphere of the night. Artiflora (or Frankie Mulholland) has been performing for 3 years in different cabarets and club nights and told me: “Queer Theory has been great because it’s really never the same crowd and the acts are never the same which means the kind of night changes as well”. From what I can gather, no matter how different the nights can be, they share the same intention; underground but welcoming, pushing the boundaries and being experimental but also a space to express ideas, and to share common experiences and frustrations.
The evening ended with the Black Doves singing us goodnight, and if I knew more about music I’d be able to tell you why I liked them. All I can say is they had some very catchy tunes and I thought it was a lovely way to finish the night. I would recommend this night to all my queer and non-queer friends. I asked Cargill how a performer would get involved: “One of our main aims in Queer Theory is to support new performers, especially those who are experimental and queer. We are always on the lookout for performance artists, drag acts, alternative music artists, comedians and spoken word artists. If you want to get involved email us at firstname.lastname@example.org”. Make sure you check them out on Facebook and keep an eye out for their next event!
Queer Theory is a monthly event at Nice ‘N’ Sleazy, for more information visit: www.nicensleazy.com