Monday, 2 July 2018

Neither, Thank You: Jonny Woo @ Edfringe 2018


2ND – 26TH AUGUST 2018
Assembly, Piccolo Speigeltent

Drag superstar Jonny Woo and Olivier Award-winning composer of Jerry Springer The Opera, Richard Thomas, bring you this sequin-spangled musical ripped straight from the headlines. This is an uproarious yet seriously glamorous satire about the referendum of 2016 and the ensuing furore of ‘Brexit’ with a star-studded cast of top Fringe talent. ‘In’ or ‘Out’? There’s a hell of a lot to sing about.

Would you identify your show as 'gay' or 'queer'? What makes you define the show with this label?

My show this year is neither 'gay' nor 'queer'. Its a musical cabaret satire based on the referendum / Brexit and our attitudes towards each other with regards to this topic. Sexuality or gay identity play very little part. The cast is made up of gay men or women who may or may not identify in some way as queer, but it has no relevance to the shows topic. 

I'm guessing you are asking me this question because I've presented solo work in the past which would fall under these headings. I use drag in the show to encourage the audience to look at the subject matter from a different, more playful angle so this may make it of interest to gay / queer audiences but it is my intention for the show to appeal to the broadest demographic and is probably my most mainstream show to date.

What differences do you see between the labels 'gay' and 'queer'?

Labels, labels, labels. Firstly labels are there to help lazy people have some kind of idea what your work is about. Its like the question what kind of performance do I do and I have to say drag, but then have to talk my way around what my take on that is. I consider myself a performer for example. Nothing more. So at the end of the day people are people. 

The only real use for labelling myself as either gay or queer is so that I can identify a common point of interest or get a shag! I personally identify as gay but will often, reluctantly say my work is 'queer'. Again, it'll be like, my work is queer... but its also comedy, performance art etc etc. So, back to your question, gay or queer. I guess queer is another way of saying 'LGBTQ+' but its a bit more punk, a bit looser and less PC. Queer feels a bit more catch all. Different to, with regards to sexuality primarily but also from the mainstream straight world and also the LGBTQ+ community. 

Gay is more old fashioned I guess. I'm old fashioned. I think it has more to do with sexuality and who you shag. I see myself as a gay man, more than a 'queer' personally. I feel pretty ordinary, which might sound odd and see myself within the context of mainstream society. I also relate to the legacy of 'gay men' the struggle, the pain, the joy, the survival. Nothing is set though. I'm also pretty alternative I guess so then I get labelled 'queer'. Labels are kind of redundant.

Why do you think I am asking this question, particularly of your show?

I think I answered this in the first question, because I have presented 'gay' or 'queer' work before and do so in London and am an identifiable figure on the alternative gay scene or 'queer' scene. I think you are asking this question now because the term queer is used so much now especially with regards to shows, cabaret, theatre. 

We are in a new era of gender politics and 'queer' is a catch all, where as 'gay' is usually associated with gay men, rather than women and excludes the other letters within our pesky acronym. Queer is a word bandied around a lot at the moment, it has different connotations to different generations. I don't particularly like the word. I don't like the way it sounds. We may think we have reclaimed it but still stings when you get called it in the street. I don't think there are any rigid answers to your questions, my answers were shifting whist writing them. When I make work I do't think...ooh time to make some gay or queer work. Other people label it.

Jonny Woo, the ‘king and queen’ of London’s alternative scene, and musical theatre’s ‘enfant terrible’, Richard Thomas, have come together to write a score that is jam packed full of unforgettable songs including ‘Referendum-dumb’, ‘The Great Cunting Debate’, ‘Swivel Eyed Loon’ and ‘The Ballot Box Ballad’. Expect glittering star turns from Boris Johnson (sung by Jayde Adams), Angela Merkel and of course Nigel Farage. Neither Woo nor Thomas intends to bore you with the same old rhetoric or statistics, rather thrill you with hi-jinx, big laughs and unexpected emotional clout.

Cast: Jonny Woo, Richard Thomas, Jayde Adams, Sooz Kempner, Adam Perchard, Kevin Davies and guests to be announced.

Jonny Woo is one of London’s most celebrated cult performers: actor, writer and, of course, drag icon. Trained in theatre and dance and having cut his cabaret teeth downtown in NYC, Jonny writes, directs and performs around the world. Fringe shows include ‘Night Of A Thousand Jay Astons’ (2006), ‘International Woman Of Mr ‘E’’ (2007), Wonder Woo-Man (2014) and Transformer (2016), his rock musical based on the music of Lou Reed’s seminal album. He continues to present shows at The Soho Theatre and has shown at The ICA, The National Theatre and The Royal Opera House. He has recently toured Australia with Le Gateau Chocolat with ‘A Night At The Musicals’. He has his own performance pub ‘The Glory’ in Hackney and presents his annual ‘Un-Royal Variety’ at The Hackney Empire, which includes musical collaborations with Richard Thomas.

Richard Thomas is an Olivier Award-winning composer and writer and is best known for writing and composing Jerry Springer: The Opera, which was the first ever musical to win all four British ‘Best Musical’ awards. The show has just enjoyed a sold-out critically acclaimed production in New York. He also wrote the lyrics for the musical adaptation of Made In Dagenham, the libretto for 2011 smash-hit opera Anna Nicole (Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; BAM, New York) as well as composing music and songs for some of comedy’s greatest practitioners including Tracey Ullman, Frank Skinner, David Baddiel and Harry Hill. He is also known for his BBC2 television series Kombat Opera Presents… which consisted of five half-hour musicals based around existing television programmes and which won two Rose D’Or awards in 2008.

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