Review: Bianca Del Rio at London's Meth Lab
There's something quite special going on down at The Black Cap in Camden...
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We all came across RuPaul's Drag Race in different ways. Some of us have been there since the library first opened in season one (BeBe Zahara Benet, anyone?), some of us have spent years, ahem, acquiring episodes from the internet, while a lot of us only discovered it for the first time earlier this year after binging it on Netflix.
Needless to say, Drag Race is so much more than just a cult 'thing' these days. It's a phenomenon, growing in popularity each year over here in the UK. And thankfully, thanks to The Meth Lab in a little corner of London – Camden's iconic leading gay bar The Black Cap – we can still see some of our favourite queens once the race is over.
Last night's Meth Lab was of course headlined by series six winner Bianca Del Rio. But there was a long night of some incredible performances before our main event. The night was hosted by Meth herself (obviously), and it's clear to see why she's become such a staple cornerstone of the capital's drag queen. In fact, if you've only seen her host and not perform, you're really missing out. Opening with a lip synch Meredith Brooks I'm A Bitch, Meth wasn't just lip synching for her life, she was lip synching for the lives of every single one of the 260-plus people in the room. The thing that's so captivating about her performances is that she uses her entire body to captivate the audience. Her facial expressions, her timing and her theatrics are nothing short of completely spot on.
Other support acts included Tiffany Diamante, a queen somewhat newer to the scene, but handpicked to open for Bianca by GT's very own columnist Michelle Visage as part of last month's inaugural Meth Lab Ball. With exposed chest and facial hair and broad shoulders, Tiffany doesn't fit your usual drag queen model, which is what made her stand head and shoulders above the rest at the Meth Lab Ball. Despite looking absolutely incredible, of course, her true talent lies in her live vocal, belting out I Will Swallow Him as part of her, ahem, holy cum-union to rapturous applause.
Myra DuBois, on the other hand, is an old school queen in every sense of the word. We've seen her performance a couple of times now (most recently as part of Zoo Lates at London Zoo, of all places), but while Myra's act is perfected and well-refined (we don't want to spoil anything, but her duet with her sister in Doncaster is an absolute genius piece of performance art), it's her put-downs and crowd interactions where she truly shines. Myra has a sharp wit which, when unleashed, is like a runaway train. It's not going to be stopped for love nor money. Myra (and we mean this in the nicest possible way) has a few miles on the clock, having previously wowed crowds at Edinburgh Fringe, which is what makes her such a must-see act, making old skool cool.
Dott Cotton is another unique and quirky act, clawing the night back into performance art with an intricate and elaborate dance routine, while Meth Lab staple Holestar (who joined Meth and our Michelle on the Meth Lab judging panel), rounded out the support acts with another incredible live performance which was a dazzling show of true professionalism and a real understanding of her character.
But then, with the crowd whipped up into a titillating frenzy, it was onto the main event... The queen that holds the tiara, Bianca Del Rio.
If you've never seen Bianca live before, she's nothing short of absolutely electrifying. As soon as she walked onto The Meth Lab's stage last night, the energy and atmosphere of the entire room changed into sheer excitement. Her show, after a warm-up introduction reading the front of the audience (hey, it's what people paid for), she invited four unsuspecting victims... sorry, contestants, to join her on stage and do the one thing she claims she never had to do while on Drag Race – lip synch for their lives.
Bianca was the first comic queen to scoop the top prize in Drag Race, and with her razor-sharp tongue and vivid imagination, it's clear to see why she was the standout winner. Lats night at The Meth Lab was a masterclass of understanding your character, your audience, and knowing just how far to push the boundaries.
It takes an insane amount of adoration and popularity to be able to take a man of (presumably) non-British origin, slap a wig on him and make him shake his arse to a Cher song, shouting at him to "dance like he's a citizen". Bianca Del Rio has this adoration; she has this popularity. It's what made her the undoubted queen of season six of Drag Race, and it's what's going to help make her a star.
The Meth Lab and everyone behind it is making a tireless, concerted effort to bring the best queens from Drag Race to London audiences on a monthly basis. As well as Bianca's four sold out nights in Camden, the likes of Adore Delano, Shangela and Alaska Thunderfuck are all on their way before the year's end. Click here for dates and to buy tickets.
But more importantly, away from the bright lights and the big names, The Meth Lab is providing a stage, an audience and even a community for some of the best names in London's drag, androgynous and performing arts scenes. And for that, hunty, GT thanks everyone involved.
You can follow Meth on Twitter at @Do_Meth, The Meth Lab at @methlablondon and The Black Cap at @blackcap_camden. For more information on future events at The Meth Lab, click here.
Words Ryan Butcher, @ryanjohnbutcher
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