11 September 2015

The Changing Face of Drag

The jewel in the Sydney drag scene crown, the lavish production show, is feeling the squeeze. Affected by cultural, political and economic challenges we now have only seven production shows playing over four venues and featuring just 12 showgirls. This once thriving aspect of the industry, often billed as some of the best drag performance in the world, is in flux.

We’ve known for some time that culturally these shows have become less popular within the broader LGBTI community. At the same time drag has burst into the general entertainment landscape where the industry as a whole is broader than ever. Look at the popularity of drag trivia, drag bingo and drag karaoke nights playing throughout the greater Sydney area almost every night of the week. 

 The production show has become more niche, but nevertheless the work currently playing on the Oxford Street strip is as good as it’s ever been. Decoda Secret, a three-time DIVA Entertainer of the Year and one of only a couple of showgirls to produce and perform in these shows said: “Production Shows and their fans will always be around but are not likely to get bigger than the current crop – at least for the near future.”

Politically the current lockout laws have been a major contributing factor to the loss of stages and declining audiences for these kinds of shows. Pre-lockouts, drag fans would start at the pub for a smaller early show and then meander to the nearest nightclub for those early morning spectaculars. That foot traffic is gone – along with the flow-on jobs this industry created.  

These shows are more expensive to produce than ever before and while the current showgirls are geniuses in stretching their small budgets, the days of constantly changing costumes and large casts are gone. The old adage that you ‘never make money from drag’ is certainly no throwaway line these days – it’s harder than ever to make a living out of drag.