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Courtney Act on drag after lockdown, fisting and whether she’d do Strictly Come Dancing

Reiss Smith November 25, 2020
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Courtney Act with shoulder-length blonde hair, tucked behind her ears, and big spiky earrings

Courtney Act is ready for her big return to the stage. (Supplied)

Courtney Act spoke to PinkNews about her West End debut, making silk purses from the sow’s ears of the pandemic and fisting jokes.

Courtney Act is many things to many people: Drag Race icon, Celebrity Big Brother champ, an eloquent advocate for LGBT+ rights and perhaps above all, eternal optimist.

At the end of what has been an unequivocally terrible year for the whole world, not least for queer performers reliant on large crowds, Courtney is thankful for the downtime life has afforded her (and very aware of the privilege she enjoys compared to many others in her line of work).

More than anything she’s excited to be getting back on the stage, making her West End debut in Death Drop – A Dragatha Christie Murder Mystery, penned by Holly Stars and featuring Courtney’s fellow Drag Race legends Monet X Change and Vinegar Strokes.

Courtney Act and Monet X Change in 80s dress holding a knife and a gun respectively, text reads Death Drop
Courtney Act and Monet X Change in Death Drop. (Supplied)

Opening as the UK comes out of lockdown next week, it looks set to be a much-needed dose of camp; a night of draggy panto fun for all the LGBT+ family with, as Courtney explains, only one real fisting joke! PinkNews caught up with everyone’s favourite Aussie to find out more.

PinkNews: Hi Courtney! So, you’ve got a play coming up, 

Courtney Act: I do, which is exciting. I’m sitting here with my script, I’ve just gotten to the top of Act Two, and my first line is: “What do you think?”

And what do you think?

Oh I love it! It’s that time of year, Christmas, Hannukah, it’s whatever non-denominational celebration you like, that fun time of year where we get to drink mulled wine, and I’m looking forward to just being in a theatre and doing a show that’s not deep, not meaningful, just fun.

We’ve had a lot of a lot to think about in 2020 and this show is just about suspending disbelief and having a good night out at a socially distanced theatre. We’ve done everything that we can to make sure that everybody is safe.

This must have been quite a weird year for you as a performer.

Well, I must say I’ve been quite fortunate. I was meant to be writing a memoir from March onwards, but I had all of the rest of the life that was going on. And then when the rest of life got cancelled, it just gave me all the time I needed to actually focus on writing. Now knowing what a mammoth task writing a book is, I know that I wouldn’t have been able to get it done if the world was still turning.

So I’ve had something everyday to wake up to, to focus on and to give me purpose. And in that respect, I’ve been fine. But now it’s exciting to have something to look forward to.

Courtney Act in a drag closet with a rail of glittering dresses behind her
Courtney Act was recently CBBC’s Celebrity Supply Teacher. (CBBC)

Queer venues and the arts in general have had such a tough year so it’s nice that things are getting – if not back to normal, then back in gear at least.

I do love to see how drag has adapted during quarantine, like all these Instagram Live drag shows and queens starting OnlyFans and doing more online content.

I think queer performers historically have been used to being on the fringes, and have been used to making do. I think almost one of the tenants of drag is making the most of the situation at hand, whether that be with the skills that you have, with the resources that you have, with the audience that you have with the stage that you have.

I mean, in this instance, we’re in a West End theatre with a full support team and everything, which is a real joy, but we’re used to making things work, we’re used to turning sow’s ears into silk purses in the drag world.

Lets come back to the play. What can we expect?

Lady von Fistenburg is the lady of the house – which interestingly, is actually the only blue-adjacent sort of thing in the show.

My audience in the UK is fairly family-friendly and I really wanted to do the show. And as I was reading, I thought, you know, are all of those people who watched me on Big Brother and whatnot, Is this gonna be too niche? I mean, I’m talking to PinkNews, so I guess you’re in on the in-joke. And maybe disappointed when I say there are no other fisting jokes in the show!

Courtney Act
Courtney Act. (Joseph Sinclair)

But yeah, Lady von Fistunberg lives on Tuck Island, and she’s inviting all of these people to her home for a dinner party. My character shows Shazza is an Australian pop singer – hang on, let me read you my character description.

“Shazza, an Australian 80s pop star who hasn’t had a hit in a few years, a confident name dropper, very glamorous, singer, but constantly thinks everybody is asking her to sing. Even when they aren’t.”

It’s gonna be a real stretch for me – the only thing that really differs is that I never had a hit! We all we all congregate in this house one stormy night, and of course because of the storm, the only bridge to the island is cut off. And we’re all trapped in this house and slowly one by one people get murdered.

And you’re starring opposite the wonderful Monet X Change, do you two know each other well?

We met in Sydney, I got to see her hosting Werq the World. I think we’ve met a few times actually. We chat online and I just think she’s wonderful. She’s a drag queen for the future. She’s everything you want a drag queen to be and everything you know a drag queen to be, but without the racism, sexism, bigotry, all those sorts of dated jokes. No disrespect to Bianca Del Rio, she’s made a wonderful career out of it!

 Bianca Del Rio, Adore Delano and Courtney Act
Courtney Act and Bianca Del Rio have built a firm, if shady friendship since Drag Race season six. (Getty)

But all of Monet’s comedy is just so fresh, I remember just being really in love with all her jokes that they weren’t on the oppressed, and they weren’t on the othered. They were so elevated and she’s just got a great vibe… I’m looking forward to working with her.

And the cast is just wonderful. Holly Stars wrote the script and is just a great time. Anna Phylactic who I know from the House of Gorgeous and Drag SOS on Channel 4. LoUis CYfer and Kemah Bob are great fun; I’ve haven’t hadn’t seen either of them perform in real life but I love all of their stuff online. And Vinegar Strokes from Drag Race UK, who I hadn’t met before but we’ve had so much fun together.

There’s an element of understanding when you’re a drag performer because you know that that person has gone through an experience, if not the same as yours, then there’s been adjacent elements. And there is something about being a drag performer than can be very othering even in your own queer community. And knowing that all these people have a love for performing and for, hair and makeup and costume and all that sort of stuff, it just means you’ve got a whole bunch of commonality before you even get started.

On the topic of commonality, I’m going to do a really smooth segue into Strictly Come Dancing. Of course you did Dancing with the Stars in Australia, have you been watching?

I haven’t watched every episode but it’s been great seeing Nicola on the telly. And it’s that thing, that people expect the sky is going to fall in, and then they watch and they’re like, “Ah, is that it? Is that what we were worried about?” Literally nothing, just two women dancing together, you’re just watching two people having great time. It’s a shame her and Katya are out of the competition.

Would you go on if they asked you?

Yes. A very easy yes. I loved Dancing with the Stars, it was so much fun. Actually Josh, my dance partner, he’s not one of the partners but he’s one of the dancers on Strictly and he’s assistant to Jason Wilkinson, the creative director, so he’s been over in the UK. When we were allowed to we got to hang out, we got a little bit drunk and we waltzed together.

Death Drop run from 4 December to 17 January at the Garrick Theatre, London, with a reduced capacity to comply with COVID-19 guidelines. Tickets are available now.

Related topics: Courtney Act

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