Within 12 I have had the luck to be cast as two very different yet brilliant characters. For half of the performance I play Olivia; the strong, sassy and flirty countess of Illyria. My other character, however, is Andrew Aguecheek, a complete idiot that Toby has invited to try and woo his niece (who is Olivia, to add to the layer of confusion).
Because of this I have had the chance to explore playing a male character and, with the help of the drag workshop held by the amazing Alexandria Beard, also explore being in male drag. All this I have found to be enjoyable, exploring very different sides to myself and characteristics I don’t usually exhibit. This exploration of characteristics was furthered by performing at the recent drag race fundraiser hosted at the Indie Lounge last term. The fundraiser consisted of multiple acts performing devised lip syncs, with an open mic at the end for anyone to get up and join in with. Walking through Selly Oak in full drag and getting a selection of double-takes was a weird experience if slightly hilarious, but being with a group of people who are all so talented, funny and supportive made me feel completely at ease. Although I was considerably nervous, not performing in drag in front of as many people before, I ended up having an absolute blast and really enjoyed and learnt from the experience. All the performers were amazing, with a selection of drag kings and queens performing a very wide range of songs – from Sweet Transvestite to Anaconda. Everyone gave it their all and looked amazing while doing it. Being in a performance that explores and plays with gender roles and sexuality in such a fun and poignant way has been so exciting to do, and the drag race really embodied the brilliant and accepting atmosphere of the show and LGBTQ community amidst the blur of lip-syncs, drag and glitter – what better way to spend a night?
By Megan Farquhar – Olivia / Andrew
Being a part of ’12’ has been the highlight of my first year at university. Having the opportunity to portray both Toby Belch and Orsino amongst such a caring, talented and inclusive cast and crew has given me the most laughs I’ve ever had while working on a play, as well as teaching me so much about gender and sexuality. It has been particularly exciting to explore the world of Drag – both Kings and Queens, as it was a subject I didn’t know much about previous to working on 12 (a few YouTube tutorials and a couple of episodes of Ru Paul’s Drag Race definitely doesn’t make you an expert, as I soon discovered). In order to fully educate ourselves on this subject, we enlisted the help of Alexandria Beard, an expert in the world of drag, to run a Drag Workshop with the whole cast to immerse ourselves in dragging up and taking (some of) us out of our comfort zones to create our own Drag persona. Although throughout rehearsals we had briefly explored our drag personas by raiding the costume store and watching videos, this experience was much more in-depth and truly allowed us to become adventurous in finding our own counterpart in drag. Alexandria instructed us on how to apply make-up to make our face shapes appear more masculine through highlighting and contouring, our eyebrows much bushier and also informed us about packing and binding to take our personas to the next level. Once we had all been caked in makeup and cried with laughter at Megan in a short brown wig, we had a photo shoot to display the outcome of our hard work. It was amazing to see how we had all transformed, as well as how differently we all held ourselves when embodying another gender (and the extent to which Joe resembled Amanda Holden). I personally found that this experience provided me with a new-found understanding of masculinity and the way in which a bit of facial hair and a slight bulge can completely change my physicality and even my voice, making the process even more fundamental to my portrayal of Orsino and Toby. Overall, it was an experience that brought us all much closer to one another, whilst becoming far more comfortable in our drag personas, all with the help from the wonderful Alexandria. From every single one of us in the cast, we would like to thank Alexandria for her hard work and amazing help with the Drag workshop, especially for allowing us an insight in to the process of her transformation into ‘Tom Foolery’; the best drag name I’ve ever heard. I can’t wait to carry on working on this amazing production in August, and already miss the cast and crew so much.
By Lucy Price – Orsino / Toby