This well-meaning documentary from Netflix takes a look at how the UK’s rapidly changing drag scene is surviving the Covid lockdowns. However, somewhere along it mixes its message so much and it eventually trails off into confusion.
The film starts out acknowledging the hardworking local drag queens who have always been the mainstay of gay pubs in England for years. It also pays tribute to landlords of queer venues who against all odds have survived the financial losses as a result of lockdown and the ever-changing tastes of their clientele. The owner of Sundowners the only LGBTQ venue in the provincial seaside town of Margate is one such example, and he knows he’s been penalized as well-known gay bars in London have received considerable financial relief to stay afloat.
So Netflix mounted this countrywide tour last summer 2021 ostensibly to promote their own TV show I Like To Watch Live. They included drag kings and non-binary performers including host Brent Would and performer Sigi Moonlight, but the acknowledged stars of the piece RuPaul’s Drag Race UK drag queens including The Vivienne, Tia Kofi, Tayce, and Cheryl Hole. They made attempts to acknowledge how this circuit of local venues gave them their start in the business, they couldn’t avoid hiding their natural opinions that being on Drag Race is the be and end-all for any Queen.
This comes just after The Guardian Newspaper published a really spot on review of Drag Race UK: “The third series – currently airing on BBC Three – has seen a number of twists on the format, however, with shock eliminations and surprise saves, and lip-syncs used to separate both the top and the bottom of the pile. It’s the closest the UK series has felt to its US counterpart, but in doing so it risks losing the subversive, cheeky charm that made it so irresistible.”
We guess it’s of little consequence to many of us how Ru Paul’s money-making juggernaut survives and/or continues, but it will be an enormous shame if it ends with killing off the brilliant raw talent that we pray will always be the stars in local queer bars everywhere.