The Lady Boys of Bangkok secure UK government grant to keep the show on the road

Vic Parsons October 25, 2020
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The Lady Boys of Bangkok are now funded by the British government

The company behind the Lady Boys of Bangkok will get more than £1 million from the government's emergency arts funding. (Twitter/TheLadyBoys)

The Lady Boys of Bangkok has secured emergency government arts funding as part of the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.

Gandey Productions, which stages the Chinese State Circus and the Lady Boys of Bangkok, will get more than £1 million in the latest government funding round aimed at securing the future of arts and culture in the UK.

The Lady Boys of Bangkok is a glitzy, glamorous performance troupe of transgender showgirls, who lip-sync to pop bangers by famous stars.

London’s Shakespeare’s Globe will receive almost £3 million, while the Birmingham Hippodrome, London’s Old Vic theatre and the National English Ballet will all get the maximum £3 million in funding.

In total, 35 organisations and venues across England will receive up to £3 million each in the latest round of grants. More than 70 per cent of the £75 million pot will go to venues and organisations outside of London.

The Lady Boys of Bangkok is one of the Edinburgh Fringe’s most popular shows, having entertained more than one million people since the first audience saw the show in 1998. The cabaret show features Thai performers, called Lady Boys or kathoey, who used to provide entertainment at events such as temple festivals.

It was described as “the Fringe’s biggest show” by The Guardian in 2019. “The Lady Boys’ main appeal, however, is a communal one,” the reviewer said.

“As a raunchy version of One Night in Bangkok set in a hostess bar (this is not a show that shies away from its roots in the Thai sex industry) turns into a Queen tribute in which the cis male dancer Arthur Dy Saensuk dons a moustache to perform as Freddie Mercury, the audience rises to its feet to sing along to Don’t Stop Me Now.”

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said the “vital funding” would secure the recipients’ futures and “protect jobs right away”.

“These places and organisations are irreplaceable parts of our heritage and what make us the cultural superpower we are,” he added.

The government said the grants were being awarded “to places that define culture in all corners of the country”.

Phillip Gandey, the The Lady Boys of Bangkok director, told the Guardian: “One of my most proud achievements is what the Lady Boys of Bangkok has done for transgender people in the United Kingdom.

“They were the butt of a joke 21 years ago and we’ve made it mainstream. We did This Morning several years ago with Richard and Judy and when they introduced them on the show it wasn’t ‘This is a show about men trying to be women’ they said ‘We’re welcoming one of the UK’s most fabulous dance troupes’.”

More: cabaret, Edinburgh Fringe

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