Being a Fly on the Wall at the Trolley Dollies; new show

So you’ve been watching a fabulous show starring three glamorous Amazonian Drag Queens, all six-footers in their stockinged feet, but more like seven-foot Wonder Women in heels and wigs. Now you’re wondering what goes down backstage once the curtains go down. Wouldn’t you just like to know?

Well, here’s your chance. The Trolley Dollies latest show NON-Specific at Gate69, Cape Town’s “Purple Palace”, takes the audience behind the scenes after a performance to hear the queens bitch about aching backs and sore feet (you try stomping around on stage in stilettos for a couple of hours), diss each other about messing up a routine or failing to hit a note, and generally throwing shade. Life is hard for a Drag Queen.

Stupendous Drag Artistes Cathy Specific, Molly and Holly (played by Brendan van Rhyn, Rudi Jansen and Christopher Dudgeon) ruminate in their dressing room after a show. They do what they love and love what they do, but sometimes it’s tough. Here they sit in front of their mirrors, wigs off, released from torturous heels, but still in their corsets, tucked from here to eternity, wondering what it’s like to have a “normal” life. They talk about the Divas who inspire them, share what it was like growing up gay for each of them, coming out to their families. They poke fun at each other, sometimes with a stinging barb. If they were the Golden Girls, who would be Dorothy, Blanche or Rose? If they were the First Wives Club, who would be the ideal Goldie, Bette or Diane? Then there are the pitfalls of trying to find a boyfriend in the so-called Gay Capital of Africa where everyone is so image and body conscious. Nobody wants to date a drag queen waxed within an inch of her life and bears only like other bears, so not a chance there sweetheart. The pretentious queens of Green Point do not get off lightly! Nor for the vegans behind the Tie-Dye Curtain! It’s sometimes a little sad, but mostly very funny.

And of course, there are the routines. Cabaret! A stunning rendition of You Don’t Own Me from The First Wives Club (loved the cut out cardboard wigs!); I Will Follow Him (hilarious in corsets and nuns’ habits). Vogue. The 80s medley, where a hat, a jewel, a wig, a skirt or a jacket are added with each new song by an 80s pop diva (Jennifer Rush, Cyndi Lauper, Nena, Tina Turner, Tiffany, Madonna) was very clever and very entertaining. By the time they got to Thunderdome these dollies were looking totally over the top. Sondheim was the composer of choice when it came to the solos, with stunning renditions of The Ladies Who Lunch and Send in the Clowns.

The backstage dynamic reminded me of the three queens on the bus in Priscilla Queen of the Desert as did some of the wigs. There was just the right mixture of fun and poignancy. But as we approached the end of the show, the Dollies reminded us that life is not that serious. Live life, have fun. After all, life is a cabaret. And for me, NON-Specific is high energy drag cabaret at its best.