This year WoM introduced me to RuPaul’s Drag Race and I have to say I quickly became a fan myself. The show is a competition to find the next drag superstar and features a variety of challenges for the competitors. There have also been three seasons of “All Star” shows which feature fan favourites from earlier seasons, and that is how I came to know about BenDeLaCreme, WoM’s favourite queen from the show.
So, when DeLa was playing a show in Cardiff I decided to surprise her with some tickets, not entirely knowing what we would be seeing. To her credit, DeLa starts the show by warning that this performance is very different from what she did on Drag Race. Thankfully, what she does in this show is pretty damn special, not to mention unique as I doubt there’s ever been a one woman drag show based on Dante’s Inferno before.
The show includes live numbers, DeLa interacting with on screen characters (which she plays herself) and puppets. It’s a very clever show which sees our heroine descend through all nine circles of hell, meeting a variety of different characters along the way and explaining how the circles are laid out and what sinners go where.
I’ve never read the Inferno, but it’s one of those pieces of art that you pick up bits and pieces about from references in other works. But the bleak, horrific allusions I knew are here transformed into a delightfully campy affair, with bizarre characters and catchy songs. DeLa appears to have a taste for goofy puns and gags, which is something I also have a weakness for.
Along the way the show reflects on what society and religions have viewed as sins and transgressions. Dante’s vision of hell sees people punished for all sorts and some of residents seem hard done by, including anyone who hasn’t been baptised and heretics, which appears to include anyone who questions any of God’s rules.
While the gags flow quick and fast, there are some serious points here and a scene where Dela is shown the Wood of Suicides is extremely affecting, and shows the callous view Christianity used to take on this issue. It’s a moving moment, where DeLa stops the jokes and addresses this injustice and the tragedy.
All of this builds towards a conclusion where DeLa is going to meet the Devil and plans to ask questions about who is making all these rules and what the point of it all is. The ending of the show is clever too, with a solid message about how we live our lives and how we can free ourselves from negativity. It’s a heartfelt message that DeLa delivers without being overly sentimental or preachy.
It’s a very well crafted show, mixing big ideas and daft gags deftly. It delivers plenty of laughs and there’s a good heart to the show, and you have to applaud the fact that this is a bit of a risky direction to go in. DeLa could have stuck to riffing on her greatest hits from her time on TV, but instead creates a unique and interesting show by approaching an unlikely source.
A wonderful night out. The tour continues in various UK cities over the coming weeks, and if you can, I definitely recommend checking it out.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.