In Joe Strickland’s drag performance, Polly is a lot more than a drag alter ego. Polly is the manifestation of ambition, power and corruption that can filter into anyone who finds themselves in a position to change things. She is the basis of a compelling, powerful piece that investigates political division and the nature of power in a whirlwind of a performance.
Polly opens A Drag Queen Rebellion by hammering away on a glitzy electric guitar, announcing herself loudly to the freshly seated crowd. What follows is a radical call to arms; open calls for revolution by those who can see a fairer world slipping through their fingers. Yet there is also caution to this take, enough so that Strickland’s show will not alienate those disconcerted by such ferocious passion. Polly changes from talking about political climates to inner nepotism and power’s ability to make good people monstrous. This transition is seamless, something to be expected from a show as evidently thought through as this one.
Polly’s spoken word makes for a compelling listen. The interactions with the audience facilitate an atmosphere of cooperation and participation that makes Drag Queen Rebellion so engaging. Less assured are the musical numbers, which don’t achieve the same levels of inescapable magnetism. Nonetheless, these moments are presented with panache, draped in coloured lights, and Strickland’s commitment to the musical moments is inspiring.
Taking away from the show slightly is the pace. Polly races through the political arguments and explanations. This all make sense in the beginning, since early on nothing is being said that you haven’t likely heard before. Yet the frantic speed means you will lose track on occasion, meaning that the point of the show doesn’t get the time it needs to sink in fully. It also jars slightly with slower moments where Polly encourages you to close your eyes and take moments for yourself, only to launch straight back into rapid discourse. A more consistent feel and possibly a longer running time, could give Strickland’s message the time it needs to stay with those listening.
This does not, however, write the show off, Strickland delivering a fascinating, rousing performance. A different breed than most drag shows, Drag Queen Rebellion has the weight and allure to ensure your time with Polly is well spent.