This month we are super excited to be going behind the scenes of the world of Drag Improv with two of the biggest acts on the scene – Dragprov and The Bareback Kings. Every week we are going to talk to both groups to find out just how much goes into creating a successful set of shows
This morning, we talk to an act that are making a strong mark in both the improv and comedy world – Dragprov Revue . They have had raving reviews for their shows (including a five star one from The Phoenix Remix ) and back in 2018 we even awarded them Act of The Year in The Phoenix Remix Awards.
This is an act that have since then gone into first gear and wowed audiences up and down the United Kingdom with their extreme talents and even host their own monthly show at the London Improv Theatre. It has been a long time since I have had a really in depth interview with the duo so it was very exciting when the idea to celebrate them for a month came along! In the first part of our interview we talk about how the idea of Dragprov was actually formed.
Hello Ed and Francesca! Tell us about yourself and three unknown facts?
We’re Dragprov, an improvised musical comedy double act! Drag queen Eaton Messe (Ed Scrivens) and drag king Christian Adore (Francesca Forristal) create songs, sketches, raps, even entire musicals right before your eyes, looking rather fabulous while doing it we must say. Three unknown facts? Well let’s see…Francesca knows Old English, Ed can read hieroglyphs, and we have a tendency to loudly sing showtunes on long car journeys.
How did you get into improv?
We both came up through the Oxford Imps, where we were trained to improvise and first met each other, beginning this long journey into ridiculousness. Though we’d probably say, like most improv folks would, that we’d been improvising a long time before that, making up characters and little songs for our friends or just for ourselves. But it was the Imps that gave us a framework for what that was, and helped us to explore it.
What are some of your earliest memories of your early improv performances?
The rehearsal room features quite strongly, as in the Imps you intensively train for six weeks or so before having a debut show. Those times were a special mix of scary and exhilarating; you’re constantly surprising yourself with what manages to tumble out of your mouth, and it also feels really good to be centering and celebrating that make-em-up tendency you’ve always had.
One of the stand out memories of the early performances themselves was being met with that swell of laughter from the audience at something you’ve improvised. We’d both been in plays and shows before, and so had made audiences laugh, but there’s something different and special about the improv laugh – it’s a moment that you’ve made, the words and actions are your own, and the audience is your partner in that moment in a very real way. Our first experiences of that relationship are some of our clearest early improv memories.
How did you discover the world of drag?
We’d had some awareness of drag, particularly for comedy purposes, for a long time before deciding to try it ourselves. Whether it was comedy drag queens like Lily Savage, or some of our favourite movies and series growing up (Monty Python, Blackadder, and so on) where the performers regularly played with gender.
Like many folks out there today, a catalyst for our delving into drag as an art form was RuPaul. There are many issues with the show‒ where are the kings? Where are the AFAB (assigned female at birth) queens?‒ but it led us to explore the world of drag and the huge diversity of performers and styles that are out there, some of whom we feature in guest spots at our monthly show at the London Improv Theatre: the Velvet Curtain Club.
What was the time when you decided to start doing drag yourself?
It was a couple of years ago, Francesca was coming to her big end of Uni exams and Ed was doing a PhD. So needless to say, we were both feeling distractible. There’s a big student drag night that happens in Oxford, which was looking for performers to fill slots in an upcoming event, so we thought, why not? We put together a lipsync (albeit a funny one, we’ve always kept comedy central to our drag), and that was the first time Christian and Eaton took to the stage!
Tell us about how you first decided to incorporate it into improv?
After our first appearance, we’d been thinking about how we could take things forward if we wanted to keep doing drag. Our favourite drag artists are those who have a ‘thing’ that they do; whether it’s comedy, music, performance art, or anything really, we love it when a performer has a skill for which the drag is a vehicle. We’re both improvisers, with a taste for musical and character-driven improv, and so were wondering whether improv and drag might gel together.
What have been some of the best suggestions that you have been given in a show and why?
Oof, another tricky one. We performed at the Newcastle Improv Festival (and were nominated for a Phoenix Remix Award for that very show, point of fact), and the suggested location for our musical was ‘the vacuum of space’. That was such a delicious gift, and led to the musical ‘There’s Nothing Here’ that told the story of a little star with big dreams, and his blossoming love with a gas cloud called Karen.
More from Dragprov Revue next week