Innovative research by an Edge Hill University performer on the ageing drag queen will be unveiled at a global conference.
Senior Lecturer in Performance Mark Edward has been asked to present his latest practice as research investigation on the private lives of drag queens. Mark explores what happens behind the glitz and glamour as drag performers get older and become more vulnerable. He will present his research at the International Federation for Theatre Research Conference this July in Barcelona.
Mark explains: “It is an issue I feel very strongly about. There is a lot of work around youth in performance but very little about the ageing performer, especially drag queens. I have a lot of friends in this business who seem to reassess life choices as they get older. My research explores the social, political and cultural issues into ageing in non-heterosexual contexts and personal relationships.”
His work, Council House Movie Star illustrates this. It is a performance showing the weird and wonderful characteristics of the everyday life of Gale Force, an ageing drag queen and failed child star of OMO Washing Powder in her run-down council house.
“I want people to see the private life of Gale Force, to get a glimpse of what it’s like behind closed doors, away from the bright lights, and to have a better understanding of the issues facing ageing, gay performers. Gale’s working-class roots expose a real vulnerability which I want to explore.
“I was a drag queen myself in the 1980’s and although I’m out of the game I have seen a lot of changes. The night time economy has changed because of the new pub culture, and many UK drag queens have sought work abroad. For those who try to find employment in different professions, they find their skills aren’t up to date so they return to their art form. Personal relationships crumble because of the unsociable hours they work. Drag queens have a precarious relationship within contemporary gay culture.”
Mark, who has recently carried out extensive research on ageing performers, has himself been at the receiving end of negative comments. “I’m getting older myself and in a way my research is a narrative about myself. Ageing performers are on the receiving end of comments about being past it, lacking stamina, plus there are visible signs of ageing you have to contend with. There is a lot of discrimination and sustaining a performance career is very challenging once you hit 35. I argue that older performers have just as much to offer as the younger generation. They can bring something different to the stage.
“As my research develops, I want to gain more recognition for mature movers, challenge performance discrimination and encourage more opportunities for drag queens to continue in performance.”