A TRANSVESTITE academy - where guys learn to be girls - has taken over a South Yorkshire theatre.
Posture, make-up application and mastering walking in heels are all on the curriculum being taught by professional drag queen Chris Bellamy.
Chris was brought on board by LS Theatre Productions director Lee Semley, whose production of ‘Les Cage aux Folles’ opens in Barnsley next month.
“I have a cast that includes 14 strapping Barnsley men who are all going to be in drag,” Lee told The Star.
“I decided I was going to need some professional help to whip them into convincing ladies by opening night!”
Chris has worked as a drag queen in Yorkshire for the past 10 years after first trying it for a dare when he was 18.
“Some of the guys in the cast were a little nervous when we started out, particularly the ones who consider themselves ‘uber-straight’,” he smiles.
“But this is a job like any other and if they want to work in this industry they have to be willing to truly embrace any role.”
Chris has spent a lot of time with the cast walking in heels, teaching them how to hold their bodies and how to convincingly dance like a woman.
Most of the men are non-dancers and are now faced with the task of not only learning how to dance but learning to do it like a woman.
“At the end of the day I’m not teaching them to be drag queens. Doing drag well is about trying to give the illusion of a woman,” he explained.
Chris is also quick to point out that there is a difference between working in drag and being a cross-dresser in your personal life.
“A lot of people get confused and think that because you do it for a job, you’re a cross dresser and that’s what you’re in to,” he said, shaking his head.
“For me, it’s a work uniform. It’s not like I sit around in a dress on my nights off,” said the performer, who estimates it takes him an hour to completely transform into his alter-ego Anya Back.
Les Cages opens at Take Two Academy in Birdwell on February 8.
A handful of the men were also involved in Lee’s last show there - the 40th anniversary production of the classic Kes.
“Just a few months ago I was directing them talking in their broad Barnsley accents and beating Billy Casper up in the shower room.
“Now they’re dancing around the stage in heels and pouting,” he laughs.
Sixteen-year-old Tom Mallon went straight from Kes to rehearsals for Les Cages.
“It feels weird walking around in heels but it’s a new experience and I can tick it off my list of things to do,” said Tom.
“It does help having Chris around as I’ve never tried to move and act like a woman before so I need all the help I can get!”
Chris is convinced the actors will have it nailed by opening night.
“The make-up will help a lot,” he said.
“I feel completely different when I’m Anya. At the end of the day, it’s not my face looking back at me, it’s hers. It makes you feel like you can act completely differently.
“My voice is the only thing that doesn’t change,” Chris smiles.
“At the end of the day, I’m still a man in a frock!”
n Check out www.thestar.co.uk to see our exclusive footage of Chris’s complete transformation from man to woman.