This article first appeared in Attitude's November Awards 2018, issue 302.
Actor, artist and drag star Dickie Beau discusses his spot-on portrayal of British radio and comedy legend Kenny Everett in the Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, being openly gay in the business and his sick lip-syncing skills.
Now, Dickie is starring in Botticelli in the Fire is running at Hampstead Theatre until November 23 - grab your tickets here.
Image: Manuel Harlan
When did you discover Kenny’s work?
Kenny was on the telly when I was a little boy and I was fascinated by him. I don’t think I knew he was gay, in those terms, but I intuited he was a kindred spirit.
His TV show was an iconic part of my childhood — Cupid Stunt was the source of great intrigue for my sixyear-old self.
How much screen time does Kenny have in the re-telling of Freddie’s story?
I haven’t seen the film yet but, assuming I haven’t been cut, it’s a respectable — and, I hope, respectful — cameo which comes at the heart of the film and attests to the part Kenny played in the rise of Queen.
It gives a glimpse of the chemistry and friendship between Kenny and Freddie.
Are there any other LGBT+ icons that you’d like to see brought to the screen?
Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. I’ve begun dreaming of an idea around them, which I would love to develop into a screenplay. You label yourself a ‘shape-shifter/ shirt-lifter’.
Have you always been comfortable with your sexuality?
I wish I could say otherwise, but I haven’t always been comfortable with my sexuality. I was homophobically bullied at school before coming out and that was rough.
I also knew I was gay from a precociously early age, around five or six, and I had already got the message that it wasn’t OK. So I was quite a serious and solitary child. The theatre was my refuge.
Do you think being openly gay will affect your future acting career?
I have no idea, but my agent doesn’t seem worried. And thanks to the courage of openly gay actors who’ve come before, such as Rupert Everett and Ian McKellen, I suspect it’s less common nowadays for actors to be viewed solely through the lens of gay vs straight.
You also starred alongside Keira Knightley in period drama Colette as mime artist Wague. Was miming hard to master?
My previous experience of miming was very helpful. Interestingly, Georges Wague was the man who invented lip-synching in the Parisian cabarets, which was an amazing coincidence.
He called it “cantomime” — he had a pianist and a singer in the wings, then he would come out on stage and lip-synch.
You are renowned for your lipsyncing skills. How would you compare your lip-synch performances to that seen on RuPaul?
I’m ashamed to say I’ve never watched RuPaul’s Drag Race. I was introduced to lip-syncing by a drag artist from San Francisco called Suppositori Spelling, to whom I’m eternally grateful.
I’ve gone on to make shows that have a performance language all of their own. I usually do long-form, spoken-word lip-synchs, but it’s an art form with endless possibilities.
When did you realise that a life on stage, in its many forms, was for you?
I played the Handsome Prince in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves when I was five, and from then on I knew I wanted to act. But if they’d cast me as Snow White, well, I might have drifted.
Do you run through any superstitions or rituals before a performance?
I don’t buy into superstition because it creates mental clutter and puts the underlying focus on the possibility of things going wrong. Every time you go on stage you take a leap of faith, and I need a clear head for that. My motto is “Don’t look down”. And I meditate.