Tag Archives: Big Screen Small Queen

Big Screen, Small Queen

14 Feb

(Everything I Didn’t Learn at Film School)

Etcetera Etcetera has an extraordinary stage presence. Big Screen, Small Queen is a sharing of how the performer discovered the artform of drag – when they were supposed to be studying film. (Hence the show’s subtitle.) It’s a humorous and heart-warming tale of self-discovery and self-expression.

In the time honoured tradition of drag, most of the musical numbers are lip-synched, but they are visually spectacular. Performed by Etcetera, Jack Williams and Carter Rickard, and choreographed by Rickard, the dancing is electric. And then there’s the frocks; designed by Erin Caroll and worn beautifully by Etcetera, they’re truly fabulous. Add to this Aron Murray’s magical lighting and the result is a delightful, life-affirming confection.

Etcetera does perform live Peggy Lee’s hit song “Is That All There Is?” It’s a moving and amusing expression of disappointment. For Etcetera, film school was meant to open a doorway to glamour. (Is ‘disappointment’ the correct word? Or is it ‘decadence’? I’m not making a moral point; I don’t mean ‘decadence’ as in excessive indulgence, but rather as the need for more and more stimulation. It’s one of life’s great mysteries that some people can stare rapt at a mere rock pool for hours while others soon tire of the ocean – and so dream a fanta-sea.)

But there’s an absolutely fascinating paradox in drag; it is utterly performative, but in being so performative, so artificial, the performer reveals their true self. Etcetera says early in the show words something like: I can’t trust anyone who hasn’t torn down their identity and rebuilt it from scratch; I can’t trust anyone who hasn’t performed drag.

This show is designed to highlight drag’s glorious paradox. All costume changes (wigs and all) happen in full view. And the whole time there’s a full length mirror on stage and a camera capable of projecting Etcetera’s performance on a screen. The sheer artifice of it all is made apparent. Drag is an archetypal example of what’s termed philosophical irony: none of us are in the position to make God-like pronouncements of ultimate Truth, we’re all just making it up as we go along – and so artificiality is our reality. Our ability to perform is who we are.

It’s a remarkably grand and liberating vision of life (as vast and deep as any ocean, seen or dreamed.)

Paul Gilchrist

Big Screen, Small Queen by Etcetera Etcetera

Presented by Fruit Box Theatre in association with bAKEHOUSE Theatre Company

At Kings Cross Theatre until 23 Feb


Image by Matthew Miceli Photography