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Guest Blog: Writer Tom Ratcliffe Talks About Drag, Social Media Behaviour & Bringing FAME WH*RE to the Stage

Whilst we are adept at calling out bad behaviour, we are not so skilled when it comes to moving forward and forgiveness

Guest Blog: Writer Tom Ratcliffe Talks About Drag, Social Media Behaviour & Bringing FAME WH*RE to the Stage

Drag is everywhere. A certain, very popular reality TV show has played a huge part in catapulting what was previously a niche queer artform / protest into a mainstream staple on our screens and in our lives.

Drag is now an entire economy within its own right. Many artists, both from the series and not, have amassed huge followings, becoming social media influencers and public figures in the process.

The dopamine hits that buzz around our bodies when our posts are engaged with online have left many chasing influencer status and pumping out content in the hope to build a following, a career and increase their 'status', or currency, within society in general. This provides very fruitful ground for our central character Becky Biro in Fame Whore, who ultimately wants to achieve these levels of fame and relevance and is willing to do whatever it takes to get there.

Working on this, frankly outrageous, show with my 'good Judy' Gigi Zahir, who works as a full-time drag artist under 'Crayola the Queen', the last two years has been a riotous, eye-opening and excavatory experience.

When birthing the premise of the show we were in the depths of the pandemic when much of our communication and human experience existed online and through screens of varying sizes. We spent hours dissecting social media, the currency that carries in the entertainment industry and how the ways we present ourselves online are often narrowed down to what gets the most engagement (from our own vanity, to becoming an 'expert' and speaking out on social issues).

This led us to a discussion point around the currency a following and being of 'relevance' has within the LGBTQ+ community space. You can read many theories, such as Alan Downs' 'The Velvet Rage', around how initial shame around your identity often leads to a striving for perfection. This is something that has carried through to how many of us interact with social media. A popping account can be of primary importance and appearing to be someone of relevance carries a currency in social circles and dating as well as your career. This has sent many of us down a spiral of not feeling enough and always seeking the hollow nature of 'more'.

Guest Blog: Writer Tom Ratcliffe Talks About Drag, Social Media Behaviour & Bringing FAME WH*RE to the Stage
Gigi Zahir in Fame Whore

The insidious nature of what we picked apart in our lockdown Facetimes is the groundwork for the buffoonery that takes place in our satirical parody musical. The show follows a drag queen who needs to increase her following to get on a famous reality TV show, the immoral path she takes to get there, and how she is then held to account by the community.

For largely good and sometimes bad, LGBTQ+ communities hold one another to a high standard of behaviour. Social media has provided marginalised voices with a chance to hold institutions and people within positions of power to account for behaviours many have got away with for years. We will hold other members of our 'community' to account for a mis-step just as quickly as we would any government minister.

Whilst we are adept at calling out bad behaviour, we are not so skilled when it comes to moving forward and forgiveness. There is no infrastructure to truly play judge and jury. Twitter can very quickly become a kangaroo court. In Fame Whore this is something that we playfully clown and send up to make a wider point. Not to criticise, but just to lightheartedly acknowledge where we are as a community and society.

Staging 'issues' like this can be scary of course. Social media has quickened our access to outrage after all. Fame Whore isn't the first time I've stepped on ground that induces anxiety when it comes to presenting it in front of an audience in my career. But I truly believe that creating work which doesn't condemn or condone, but aims to provoke thought and conversation is a way that we can truly look at ourselves and learn about our own behaviour. That's what's really exciting about theatre to me.

This makes me even more excited to see how it lands and to hear the conversations audiences will be having as they leave the Kings Head Theatre night after night this month.

Fame Whore is at The Kings Head Theatre until 29 October


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From This Author - Guest Blog: Tom Ratcliffe


Guest Blog: Writer Tom Ratcliffe Talks About Drag, Social Media Behaviour & Bringing FAME WH*RE to the StageGuest Blog: Writer Tom Ratcliffe Talks About Drag, Social Media Behaviour & Bringing FAME WH*RE to the Stage
October 7, 2022

Drag is everywhere. A certain very popular reality TV show has played a huge part in catapulting what was previously a niche queer artform / protest into a mainstream staple on our screens and in our lives.