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 afternoon, 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 second part of the interview we talk about how the world of Eaton Messe and Christian Adore were actually created and brought to life…
Do you remember your first show you did with drag? How were you feeling beforehand and how did the show go?
The chance to try out the combination of drag and improv came when a friend of ours organised a small cabaret show, in a basement in Shoreditch (of course). They put a call out on social media asking if any of their friends wanted a spot to try out new things, and it looked like the perfect opportunity to give Dragprov a whirl! Very chill, just a 15-20 minute set, no big repercussions if it didn’t work. So we trotted on down to London (at the time we were both Oxford-based), and got into drag in a toilet of the bar upstairs. We were nervous, but excited, and were mainly approaching the thing with an attitude of ‘let’s just have a good time and see what happens’. As it turns out, it went amazingly, and everyone was really enthusiastic about the act and what it could become. So here we are!
How did you come up with the personas of Christian and Eaton?
We played around for a while with the kinds of personas we’d like to have, as well as their possible relationships to each other. Francesca settled on the name Christian Adore as it has an element of suaveness, some campy fun because of it’s punny nature, but not so punny that it couldn’t be the name of an actual person. Ed was always interested in having an oldy worldy type name, as he likes vintage styles as well as the wit and goofery of eras like the 1920s. He was Pfannee Couture for a while, but then saw some Eton mess flavour chocolates and a little pink light went on; Eaton Messe was born!
We explored our characters in various ways, even going on nights out as Christian and Eaton to get a feel of who they were individually and as a pair, but the most important factor in their growth has been getting them onto the stage and letting them develop organically.
Your makeup and outfit as a whole is fantastic how long does it take to get into character and how long does the makeup take to do?
Why thank you kindly! It usually takes us anywhere between an hour and a couple of hours to get into makeup, depending on how pressed for time we are; Francesca can turn into Christian at lightning speed if need be! Our characters emerge through the process of getting into drag; as your face changes, you feel yourself using it differently, holding your body differently, and immersing into the fantasy of this person. Christian and Eaton are always there somewhere, you’ve just got to let them out!
Also, how long does it take remove all the makeup?
Like a fancy dinner, it takes a lot longer to prepare than to get rid of it. You can get the bulk off pretty quickly, but traces of eyeliner, glitter, or lipstick can linger for the rest of the night, even into the next day.
Do you make your own outfits or do you buy them? Do you have a particular style you aim to stay with?
We get our outfits from various places. We can buy them as they are, Francesca favouring online suit stores while Ed excavates charity and vintage shops, or his friends’ wardrobes. Otherwise we acquire bits and pieces along the way, which we then adapt or combine in different formulations. Ed recently turned a plant pot stand into a crown for a space princess. Our style probably floats around vintage cabaret campiness, with Christian leaning on the suave yet sparkly side while Eaton is all about retro glamour.
You have managed to perform at some fantastic locations – what have been some of your favourite shows you have done and why?
That’s a tricky one, as we’ve had so much fun over our years of doing this that it’s hard to pick favourites. An early highlight was performing at Rachel Parris’ musical comedy showcase a couple of years back at the Edinburgh Fringe; it was a fantastic show, and we were so excited to share the stage with some of the biggest musical comedy talents around. More recently, we did a fundraiser show at the Clapham Grand to aid disaster relief for the Australian wildfires. It was hosted by Deborah Frances-White (insert fangirl/boy moment), and the venue itself was so gorgeous.
Do you find being in drag gives you a different sort of energy on stage to performing as yourself? What do you prefer?
Drag definitely does bring out a different energy, as you get to really lean into the camp and silliness that we think is pretty inherent within improv. It also lets you explore the boundaries of what it is to be an improviser. There’s sometimes a framing device that improvisers on stage are just themselves before they go into a scene, but we all know that’s not true; you’re a stage version of yourself. By being in drag, we take that idea and run with it. Being in drag also pushes your characterisation skills, as you’re not a blank visual slate. If you want to be understood as a burly builder when you’re wearing a dress and a full face of femme makeup, you’ve got to really put your body, voice, and space work into it.
How do you warm up before a show?
As we’ve already mentioned, the warm up process sort of begins when we’re putting our makeup on. That’s when you feel your character starting to emerge. Alongside that, we’ll be chatting, joking, telling stories about our day; generally tuning in with each other, and getting into a fun headspace, as to us this has always been a venture of fun.
When the time comes to go on stage, we’ll do some word association to get our brains moving, and some rhyming games since songs make up a big part of our show. We might also throw in some games that we’ve just thought of there on the spot, saying ‘ooo what if we did this, just for fun?’. We’ll then take a moment just to connect with each other and remember that, whatever the stakes of the gig, we’re two mates doing this because we enjoy it. This is usually done through the pulling of faces and speaking in strange voices. We are consummate professionals.
How do you wind down after a show?
A good old gossip, sometimes dancing, oftentimes communing with the Shadow Realm.
What advice would you give to anyone who is interested in performing in drag?
Just start doing it! Whether it’s in your room or on a night out, have a play. Find what makes you feel cool, and don’t be too hung up on being a perfect little drag right from the get go; we all look rough at the start. Drag has no limits, so get excited about the creative freedom that’s open to you! And in terms of performing, think to yourself: What can I do? What do I enjoy doing? What can I bring to that stage that would make people excited to look at it?
More from Dragprov Revue next week