Culture: Theatre
 

BLACKOUTS: Twilight Of The Idols



Dickie Beau

I first met Dickie Beau some five years ago, as part of the underground cabaret scene that Bistrotheque and its resident mother, Lisa Lee, honed as part of a season of embryonic works ‘UnderConstruction’. While other drag queens came and went and left their trail of lipstick, glitter, feathers and vitriol, Dickie Beau wiped the floor with all of us, performing his trademark lip-synched rendition of Judy Garland’s last recorded conversation (with herself), interpreted by himself as Judy, mouthing the words to dramatic effect whilst dressed as Little Red Riding Hood. So far, so obvious you might say, but this lip synch ended with Dickie taking a calamitous fall backwards and biting his silent tongue, spitting literal and symbolic blood hither and thither across the walls of the venue and our own collective psyche.

Four years later and the same piece is part of Dickie’s show ‘BLACKOUT: TWILIGHT OF THE IDOLS’ at Chelsea Theatre. I had anticipated the piece being a ‘Dickie Beau’s Greatest Hits featuring That Famous Red Riding Hood/Garland Act’, but Beau has taken the show at Chelsea to brave and even more jaw dropping – and tongue biting – new lengths. A truly mesmerising mixture of video/film and live performance, Dickie conjures up an hypnotic and hallucinatory film/stage show. There is very little I can say about the piece without giving the game away, suffice to say that it is an utterly engaging meditation on the notion of both ‘the image’ of fame and how we deal with/consume that ‘image’ itself.

Dickie went to immeasurable lengths to secure just a few minutes of exclusive and revelatory tape of Marilyn Monroe’s final interview with journalist Richard Merryman, but the show rightly focuses on this process rather than the result – in fact we hear more from Merryman,the owner of her legacy, than from the lauded woman herself – and those moments of Marilyn we do hear only serve to cement her mystery further. A few years ago, Dickie could be seen in full drag as Monroe in a teaser of this piece – in this incarnation he appears only briefly as the bloom-skirted goddess. Most of his stage time is spent wrapped as an anonymous mummy in the intellectual bandages the show wears with pride and finally unwraps as he envelopes the characters he sees as ‘sacred’.

Coming from a ‘cabaret’ background, the pieces that have made the show what it is have been displayed in a raw arena elsewhere, yet in the highly designed piece that Beau has created in this ‘finished’ piece, we see an utterly polished gem. The video and lighting design are the co-stars of this piece of visual theatre – and it is only when Dickie literally slashes the curtain separating himself from the audience (in a symbolic and wonderfully anarchic act that perhaps seems too ‘punk’ in the dreamscape he has created) that we notice that what we have seen is not what we thought we have seen.

Light, performance and film interlink in a seamless synergy that create literal smoke and mirrors before our eyes. Dickie Beau is undoubtedly the Lindsay Kemp of the twenty-first century. Whilst American queens such as Lipsynka rob and rape the tombs of camp idols, jabbering silently with blood red lipped maws a-gape, Dickie Beau’s show celebrates, recreates and explores the grave landscape that enthralls us all when we look at icons such as Marilyn and Judy. We are fragile and all too human, as are our icons – and this show is equally illusory. There is no way that this piece can be taken further or to a bigger arena (such as the Barbican, Soho Theatre or South Bank Centre, who should all swallow this piece whole) without Dickie, but I hope that his work can be seen by a wider audience without sacrificing the dignity that his work holds truly sacred.

Words: Marcus Reeves

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