Len Blanco – Firing Blancs ☆☆☆
The Vaults Festival
Full marks to The Vaults Festival for coming good on inclusiveness and diversity in its programming of this simply vast festival (400+ shows!!). Tonight we are treated to Len Blanco who is a Drag King (a non-binary performance artist dressed in traditionally masculine clothes). It’s a convention steeped in history; from Gladys Bentley in 1920’s Harlem to Hetty King the UK music hall star who performed in Sailors drag during the first world war singing songs such as “All the nice girls love a sailor”.
Len Blanco, we learn was a member of the now defunct boy band ‘M4’ (imaginatively taking the name from the motorway leading to their home town in South Wales) and the band only lasted from 1998 to…err…1998! Len’s jacket sleeves are rolled up to the elbow, there is a little moustache perched on his upper lip and he drinks from a bottle of water in a way that says “Butch”!! Oh, and there is a LOT of crotch grabbing.
The plot centres on the trials and tribulations of a modern day boy band member, the pitfalls and the many routes to disaster which includes coke habits, and nude selfie pics getting into the media’s hands etc.
What marks this show out as special is the way we see all these issues through the prism of a non-binary writer and performer (both written and played with great warmth and compassion by Helen White). The songs are without doubt the highlight of the evening, delivered with a terrific singing voice they are witty, sending up the traditional boy band ballad with fresh observational humour “the baby vomits on you then smiles”.
Although the show wandered a couple of times (a debate around intersectionality will do that) Helen White’s performance is less acerbic than some Drag Queen compatriots and a lot less self-indulgent than some of the alt-cabaret scenesters. In true cabaret style, however, White knows how to work an audience and there are some cracking audience interaction moments including a question and answer session and impromptu lip-sync battle where there are no shortage of willing volunteers from the mainly female audience. That genuine spirit carries the show through; as Grandma says to the young Len Blanco “You’ve got terrible personal hygiene but a fantastic heart”.
Until March 1st 2019 https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/len-blanco-firing-blancs/
REVIEW: JONNY WARD
Jonny Ward, Queerguru Contributing Editor is a drama graduate but has worked backstage for many years at venues such as The Royal Albert Hall, The 02, Southbank Centre and is currently at The National Theatre. He lives in Hoxton, London and is delighted to check out the latest, the hottest and the downright dodgy in queer culture for Queerguru. (P.S. He is currently single)