Tuck Shop review: 'West End's first-ever live drag season is anything but a drag'

"There’s something for everyone" in this series of London drag shows.


Words: Simon Button; Photography: Matty Parks

Proudly announcing itself as the first-ever West End drag festival, Tuck Shop West End promises to be anything but a drag.

This week it’s already showcased RuPaul's Drag Race UK’s Ginny Lemon (supported by Midgette Bardot and Yshee Black) and Joe Black, and there are many more fierce and fabulous drag queens and kings to come alongside weird and wonderful comedians, musicians, bingo callers, and wannabe Spice Girls, the Spice Gals.

The night I popped along it was for a comedy club hosted by the truly brilliant Holly Stars, a Tuck Shop legend who mixes Northern warmth with a venomous tongue and whose hilarious Dragatha Christie murder-mystery Death Drop recently returned to the Garrick Theatre to rave reviews and split sides.

The 700-plus seater is perhaps a little big for the drag fest, with the likes of lip-sync-er Glew’s subtler twists of the mouth getting lost on anyone up in the rafters, while drag king Indy Nile’s act and the rants of Charlie George and Mary O’Connell would have been better suited to an intimate comedy club.

The larger-than-life Kate Butch had no problem captivating the socially-distanced crowd, though, with her hilarious twist on ‘Wuthering Heights’ and Flo & Joan (aka sisters Nicola and Rosie Dempsey) brought the house down with their set of deadpan songs.

Holly was a spitfire of a host, although I wish she’d done her own act as well as playing compere to such a diverse line-up.

I also wish I hadn’t volunteered to be one of three audience volunteers called upon to make sexy noises to movie soundtracks, not because I embarrassed myself, but more because I only came second. As the prize was a can of chickpeas I wasn’t too gutted. Plus who can be sexy when the music you’ve been given is the theme from Saving Private Ryan?)

There’s something for everyone across the remaining dates: Baga Chipz headlining two shows, gender-diverse Pan-Asian cabaret Bitten Peach, Juno Birch and Liquorice Black’s Absolutely Completely Normal Cabaret, the Cocoa Butter Club showcase for performers of colour, and a Drag Me To The Musicals extravaganza bringing it all to a close on August 8th.

Holly’s comedy club was a bit of a mixed bag but also tremendous fun. Here’s hoping she, and Tuck Shop West End, circle back around next year.

Rating: 4/5

Tuck Shop West End is at the Garrick Theatre until 8 August. For great deals on tickets and shows click here.