Self-proclaimed drag fabulist Dickie Beau brings his first major solo show Blackouts to the Chichester Showroom at the University of Chichester on Thursday, September 24 at 7.30pm (www.theshowroomchichester.co.uk).
Conjuring the spirits of celebrated Hollywood icons in an innovative theatre experience. Dickie secured exclusive access to audio tapes of Marilyn Monroe’s final interview conducted by journalist Richard Meryman and published in LIFE magazine just two days before her death. Blackouts includes material never before heard in the public domain. Segments appropriated from Dickie’s own recordings with Meryman also form part of the story.
As Dickie explains, Blackouts sees him shape-shift through a shadowy soundscape of lost souls in a sensational trip to the subconscious underworld of his future self…
“The thing I got known for when I started making my own performance work was lip-synching to Judy Garland speaking into a Dictaphone in a room of her own. I did a ten-minute long piece of theatre, and then I had this hunch there was something deeper and bigger that could come out of that. I was interested in the idea of Judy Garland as an addict, as someone that never really owned her identity, those sort of issues. I scouted around thinking who else could I look at. A lot of the other people that I am interested in happen to be gay icons or pop-culture icons, people like Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse. I did some pieces, other short bits, other sketches around Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse, but they didn’t get into the final show. What happened was that I tracked down this guy Richard who as the last person to interview Marilyn Monroe before she died. He was still alive at the time in New York, so I called him up. I told him I would be interested to see what I could do with these tapes of that interview if he would let me use the material. I made a couple of trips to New York, and he let me listen to the tapes. He was reluctant at first to let me use them. He wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them. Marilyn had given him a break by giving him that interview, and then she promptly died. It made his career. He interviewed Mae West and Charlie Chaplin, and so the break she gave him lived on… And basically Michael came to see in me a younger version of himself.”
The resulting piece is a study of icons in exile from society and themselves and the haunting impressions they’ve left behind, Dickie says.
As for that drag fabulist title, Dickie explains: “It’s actually a totally-made up thing. Fabulist or fabulator, basically it describes someone that makes things up. Angela Carter reinvented fairy tales for adults in some of her work, and I am a big fan of hers and her queering of fairy tales, and so it is a term I have borrowed from her. By queering them, I mean seeing them from a queer perspective.”
And queer is definitely the word Dickie prefers to gay.
“It means different things to different generations, but certainly since the 90s, the word queer has been very widely reclaimed by people who wouldn’t necessarily use the word gay. For me, the word gay is part of a binary dynamic. You are either gay or you are straight, but I actually don’t think people’s sexuality is that straightforward. The idea homosexual is actually a pretty recent invention, but the idea of queer for me is something much more fluid.”
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