What do you do if your life in drag has become just that – a drag?
Written and directed by Andy Moseley and performed by Moj Taylor, Make Up is a snapshot of the somewhat world-weary mind of drag performer Lady Christina, behind who hides the much more mundane Chris.
As Chris catches sight of his father in his reflection in the mirror as he’s taking off his make up for what may be the last time, we listen in on his musings on the impact of his dad’s rejection of him for being gay, and how his alter ego allows him to both escape the tedium of reality, whilst secretly reconnecting with his mother.
This one-hour show is an engaging exploration of identity with some lovely snippets that emerge from Chris/Christina’s monologue. It certainly feels timely as he declares ‘tolerance is going out of fashion’, with media headlines regularly highlighting those who declare themselves ‘anti-woke’.
Taylor is a compelling performer too, bringing some nice moments of nuance, whether it be via a raised eyebrow at gaudy birthday cards or via a tired sigh at the unrealistic expectations of those who’ve invaded his world, armed with ambitions of Drag Race fame and fortune.
There’s an amusing, self-aware irony in his reality check for such wannabes, as he talks of a life of above-pub rooms with a cabaret layout to make the audience look bigger, this being exactly where we find ourselves for today’s performance.
Whilst there are some good themes and the occasional nugget of insight, these don’t feel like they’ve quite reached their full potential and we find ourselves going along some very well-travelled ground. It takes an hour for Chris’ pontifications to result in the same epiphany that Herman Jerry summed up in just over five minutes with the lyrics of ‘I am what I am’.
There isn’t a huge amount of light and shade for us to dig into, just a solid tone of tired anger. It feels like there are some opportunities for the script to be sharpened up. It would be interesting to see a seasoned drag performer let loose on the script to weave in some of the witty barbs that usually pepper their sets to give this some real authenticity and turn a few audience chuckles into belly laughs.
Nevertheless, it is a noble reflection of how the sum of our relationships and life experiences form the ‘make up’ of the person we become, with the intimacy of the venue suiting the quietly fierce fury that Taylor radiates on behalf of anyone who has faced rejection for being their true selves.
Make Up was performed as part of the Manchester Fringe festival. For more festival shows, visit www.GreaterManchesterFringe.co.uk
Reviewer: Lou Steggals
Reviewed: 17th July 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★