London Horror Festival 2021
A comedy-horror play where the fate of the audience is in the fabulously manicured hands of two hapless drag queens. Feuding drag queens Crudi Dench and Kate Butch are hosting a spectacular cabaret night in a last-ditch attempt to revitalise their careers. But at the start of a zombie apocalypse, their backstage bust-ups become the least of their worries…
Hi Crudi thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been holding up during these very strange times?
Hello! Well, what a time it's been eh? It's been pretty grim with one thing or another, but finally seeing the light now that the outside world is slowly opening up again. I'll be glad to stop sticking swabs up my nose in the future I can tell you!
Has this time provided you with any new creative inspiration or opportunities?
Oh absolutely, Haus of Dench has been involved in a number of online digital drag shows over the past year and a bit, with our performances being seen around the world! It's amazing how much an international audience respects and enjoys lip sync performances about Tracy Beaker and Kim Woodburn.
What does it mean to you to be bringing your new show Drag Queens vs. Zombies to the London Horror Festival 2021, are there be any nerves ahead of your run?
We're thrilled to be resurrecting this production for the London Horror Festival! It's a little different to our previous cabaret and club night productions in that this is a fully scripted theatrical experience, so as improvisational performers by nature I think sticking to the script will be our biggest challenge! However, there are lots of moments of audience interaction built into the show to get our fix.
Can you tell me a little bit about Drag Queens vs. Zombies, what was the inspiration behind your new show?
It's basically what it says on the tin! A comedy horror in which two feuding drag acts have to do battle with a horde of brain-hungry zombies. It's got jokes, sad bits, musical numbers, gore, celebrity cameos, everything you'd want from an evening's entertainment! It's a melding of lots of different passions, obviously, drag coming from a collective of queer performers, but also film. Both myself and co-writer Eleanor Mason are big film buffs, so to combine our passions into this project has been an absolute joy.
What were the biggest challenges you faced bringing Drag Queens vs. Zombies to the stage?
Particularly this time around has been working on a "covid-safe" basis, a show about a pandemic during a pandemic has certainly had its production challenges! But we have been working hard over the past couple of months and have adapted the script into a snappy two-hander, with lots of work put into the sound design to get the right atmosphere for the show.
Have you always had a passion for theatre?
Absolutely! I like to think I got the triple whammy of good roles in the Nativity at Sunday School (A Shepard, Joseph and Angel Gabriel) so my talent for the stage was clearly spotted from a young age! Much is the same for my co-star Kate Butch, whose first drag performance was Widow Twanky and their primary school panto! More recently than at age 7 however, I love fringe theatre in particular, I have been to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe almost every year since 2013 and have the opportunity to see so much fresh, exciting writing is such a thrill.
What is it about drag that interests and inspires you so much as a creator?
I think it's this ability to perform across multiple genres and types of performance within an art form. There are no rules! Also, being able to tit about in a wig and insult people for money, isn't that everyone's dream?
How did Haus of Dench come about and how much has your approach to your work changed since you started out?
A group of us met while we were at the University of York in 2015, all having an interest in drag but having nowhere and no platform to perform and try it out. So we created our cult cabaret/club night Lip Sync Lollapalooza as a safe space for the LGBTQ+ people of York to have a boogie and to indulge ourselves by working on our drag performances. Since then we have performed all over, from comedy nights with Drag Race royalty to on top of a mountain in Switzerland! There are no two days alike in the life of a drag artist!
"...they want to have a fun time playing the game, not to be pushed through a series of plot points you came up with earlier."
What's the best piece of advice you would offer fellow theatre-makers?
I think I would say be bold and be proactive. Ask yourself what is holding you back from creating your performance/production and then tackle those problems head-on. Don't be afraid to take risks in pursuit of doing what you love! We've got one life, give it your all, and in the word's of America's most famous piece of plastic "Do what you wanna do, Barbie Girl!"
And finally, what do you hope your audiences will take away from Drag Queens vs. Zombies?
After such a bloody awful year and a bit, I think we mostly want people to have a laugh! It's an hour of madcap antics and silly jokes, they'll laugh, they'll cry, and may even leave with some handy tips on defending themselves against the undead!