THERE really is no business like showbusiness for one group of South Yorkshire men.
A group of Barnsley thespians have taken method acting to the next level, enrolling in a ‘Transvestite Academy’, where guys learn to be girls, in preparation for their upcoming roles as drag queens.
Posture, make-up application and mastering the art of walking in heels are all on the curriculum, being taught by professional drag queen Chris Bellamy.
Chris, aged 29, who has worked all over the world, performing as his alter-ego Anya Back, for more than ten years, says: “These are real Barnsley lads, so it’s definitely been a challenge.
“Not only do they have to learn to walk in heels, they have to dance in them while convincingly portraying a woman – no easy feat.”
Chris, a Barnsley man himself, was brought in to work with the cast of Les Cages Aux Folles, which opens at Take Two Academy next week, by director Lee Semley. Lee dons a sheer fishnet stocking and black jaw-length wig himself in the show to play the iconic role of Zaza.
He says: “I’d get some funny looks walking around Barnsley town centre dressed like this, but, at the end of the day, I’m an actor playing a character.
“As actors, we research the characters we play so we can truly embrace them and do them justice. I knew I’d need some help to transform strapping Barnsley men into ladies and I’m impressed with how hard everybody’s worked with Chris.”
Eighteen-year-old Reece Burton admits walking in heels takes some getting used to.
“It’s so difficult, but I’m getting there,” he says. “Wearing makeup feels really strange too, but it’s all acting so I’m happy to do it.
“My friends and family are all looking forward to watching the show and I’m sure they’ll have a good laugh seeing me in drag.”
Chris is convinced the actors will have it nailed by opening night: “They’re doing a great job,” he says. “Putting on the makeup and the wig is a big part of it – it transforms you.”
Chris is quick to point out that doing drag well means giving the illusion of a woman, something he is determined his students understand.
“Real drag should be about portraying femininity,” he says.
“It’s not about terrible makeup applied over week-old stubble.”
n Les Cages Aux Folles opens at Barnsley’s Take Two Theatre on Tuesday. For tickets, call 01226 744442.