Saturday 21 October 2017

Hocum Pokem


Last Saturday I went back in time to a place where witches are reborn, cats can talk and spell books have eyes! No, I wasn't watching 90's Disney classic Hocus Pocus, but sitting in the audience of the drag parody Hocum Pokem starring US drag royalty Peaches Christ and Jinkx Monsoon and UK female drag queen Holestar as that tricksy trio of witches The Manderson Sisters!

This wasn't my first time seeing a Peaches Christ Production, last year I watched her fantastic version of Return to Grey Gardens and way back in 2010 I was lucky enough to perform as a backing 'monster' in the UK premiere of Peaches film All About Evil at Manchester's Midnight Mass. With this is mind I was looking forward to something wickedly fabulous, and Hocum Pokem at the Contact Theatre Manchester, did not disappoint!

Sitting as part of a dressed up glamorous and ghoulish audience the show began with the capture and hanging of the Manderson's 300 years ago before we were quickly whisked to modern day 1993 where virgin Max, played expertly by comedian Kate McCabe, unwittingly lights the Black Flame Candle and brings the sisters sauntering back to life for one night only. The girls looked amazing with Peaches suiting the huge red curls and sparkling green gown of Bette Midler to a tee, while Jinkx looked every bit as sexy in the role made famous by Sarah Jessica Parker in the original film.

When Max and his little Cousin Wonderlette (I've never seen the like!) steal the spell book that could keep Peaches and her sisters alive forever they kicked off a series of events that bore close resemblance to the film yet took on a drag life of their own on stage. Handsome Billy Bitcherson was raised from the dead to give chase, and we were treated to the vocal talents of Holestar singing her own version of Proud Mary (she really can belt it out!). We also got treated to the local talents of dancing aces The Ultra Violets, and the storytelling/hosting skills of Manchester's Anna Phylactic.

With lots of improvisation and jokes, not to mention audience interaction, the show flew by and before I knew it the sun was rising and the sisters were forced to return to the dead, but not before another big showstopper!

Not wanting the make up and glitter to end and having been put in the mood for a serious dance we then attended the after show party 'Witch I'm Madonna' at Cruz101 where Peaches and Jinkx, in fabulous new attire, hosted a night of Madonna themed drag acts performed by local talent.

I have to say watching Jinkx Monsoon in any guise is a thrill! She just has something that captivates and yes, as my friend stated, gives major confused feelings. An impromptu dance to Vogue only made me love her more.

Nothing phased these US Qweens as they affectionately ribbed off each other. You can tell there is a lot of love and respect on and off stage and their adopted Manchester family certainly felt it too. If the audience reaction was anything to go by when we were asked what show we'd like to see next year, we may be treated to a drag version of Death Becomes Her! and as I can vouch, drag dreams do come true, bring on next October!

Tuesday 17 October 2017

The Hidden Pin Up # 9 - Burlesque fan experiment with hemp

I've spent a couple of weeks industriously fraying sackcloth to resemble ostrich feathers for my experiment making burlesque fans from hemp, and I now have my first complete fan.

I'm really pleased with how beautiful it looks and quite surprised too. It's very textural and immediately recognisable as a burlesque object, yet the different material makes you want to look closer.


Due to the hemp it is heavier than a usual feather fan but not too heavy to manipulate and wave and I'm interested to see how it handles and looks when being danced with. 

I created the feathers by using a real feather as a template to cut out the shape. I then stitched a thin piece of craft wire along the feather stem so that the feather would have some stability and bend into the shape I wanted once finished. 

Next I began to pull the edges apart, removing whole strands in places and creating fronds that mimicked the real feather. I found that this only worked if I cut the sacking on the cross in order for the frayed edges to create the right shape. Each feather is different and I like how that adds to the overall effect. I spent some time figuring out how to lay out each feather to make the most visual impact.

The fan worked best when I placed the feathers to reflect their natural bend. For instance I sorted feathers that bent to the right to lie on the left hand side of the fan so they would lean inwards. Straighter feathers I placed in the middle and left bending feathers I placed on the right. You can see how much better this looks than just laying the feathers out any old way.

 Feathers laid to bend inwards

Feathers laid in no order

I then used more craft wire to fix the feathers to the spokes of a 16" burlesque fan. I used two layers to get a fuller look.

My next thought is to experiment stitching into some of the feathers. I'm thinking of embroidering words that represent the stereotypes black Pin Up's of the past and black women today still have to face in mainstream culture. 

I'm making the fans to highlight the marginalised and primitive characterisation that have hidden the black Pin Up from view, so this will take a bit more research into what messages will work best, and I'd like to do some one on one chats to get first person experiences from women who have to deal with this regularly.

If you have any stories or info to share about your own experiences please get in touch. In the meantime I will be interviewing friends and seeing how the hemp takes to embroidery.