Guest Blog: Jonny Woo

This week we have a guest blog from Jonny Woo, who opens his Un-Royal Variety Show at The Hackney Empire this Friday, for an exclusive 2 nights only!

The Un-Royal Variety was just going to be a showcase for the best of my contemporaries. To put on a big show, in a wonderful venue to which everyone would want to come. It’s never that easy. As soon as the show was booked in, the Referendum on the EU was announced and suddenly we were living in a new political climate. It was apparent that I had to take this chance to challenge, reflect and question the views of the country and make a discussion about where we were at and how we had gotten here.

So, in 2016, The Un-Royal Variety became less about programming and more about working with my network of artists to create something uniquely political and joyous all at once. A show which provoked and asked questions but which entertained shamelessly. For me drag is all about presenting familiar ideas in a different way and opening them up for new evaluation. The Un-Royal Variety over the following year became about exploring and challenging ideas in a familiar, safe format. Dancers, a live band, comedians, magicians, acrobats. Over the last two years I have been drawn to ways of pushing content. How I can juxtapose the safe and the familiar with work that is dangerous and unpredictable.

This year I am feeling wild and experimental. I am interested in the gender punch up I see going on online. New identities are fighting for recognition. I see the definition of masculinity being challenged and I find myself wanting to assert my own masculinity on my terms. I hear the voices of women rising up and saying enough is enough. I question daily casual misogyny and feel the subtleties of my own male privilege. I try to listen to the continuing conversations regarding race and I’m learning when to stay quiet. The political upheaval of 2016 is still with us and the tumult is upon us. I see queer artists of all genders and races making their own stages. We have a stage tonight where our ensemble comes together to make a show that is rich in provocation, joy and community. We have the safe and familiar with the cruel and divisive. We are entertainers and teachers. We are collaborators and sole voices. You are both the audience and enablers.

We are all intellectuals and idiots.

Jonny Woo’s Un-Royal Variety

Jonny Woo’s annual Un-Royal Variety show returns to the Hackney Empire on Friday 19th and Saturday 20th October 2018.

Cabaret stars Bourgeois & Maurice, comedian Jayde Adams and drag icon Lavinia Co-Op are among the line-up, as well as a choir with all the singers dressed as Theresa May.

October 19-20, Hackney Empire, E9, hackneyempire.co.uk

© Jonny Woo 2018

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