On Thursday 19th December I kicked off my Christmas festivities with a wham, bang, thank you… George Micheal? with Pecsmas by Pecs Drag Kings at The Yard Theatre. This show was comprised of 4 of the 10 Pecs Kings: John Travulva (Jodie Mitchell), Thrustin Limbersnake (Lauren Steele), Scott Free (Rosie Skan) and Loose Willis (Katy Bulmer) who brought the energy of an entire kingdom. It was the Queer Christmas extravaganza I didn’t know I needed. The antidote to a particularly grinch-like fever that had spawned, exacerbated by my time in hospitality over December. Reader, I quit. Hallelujah.
A thick bearded and even thicker accented Glaswegian Santa (Mitchell) guides the audience through Christmas hits and accompanying vignettes performed by the troupe. We are teased by the Sexy Grinch (Bulmer) thrusting in garbage whilst wearing a lime green suit, a trashy delight. Mean Girls make the comeback that we’ve all been begging for. Dressed in metallic red hot-pants the Kings work Jingle Bell Rock better than I ever did in front of my bedroom mirror circa 2006. Theirs was totally fetch. We are steered to the North Pole for my favourite skit involving two fishing polar bears (Mitchell and Steele) donned in fetish harnesses. They catch nothing but each other, rolling together on the snow capped floor with a rambunctious teenage energy. Having seen Sex Sex Men Men I was nervously anticipating another sloshing episode and I was not disappointed. Thrustin Limbersnake seduces us with mince pies, whipped cream and braces. Yet whilst whetting our appetite, Limbersnake is sure to punctuate the excitement with poignant nods to body shaming and diet culture, both which pervade any celebration bound to patriarchal capitalism.
This is what Pecsmas manages so well. Within the joyous, choreographed, cream filled delight that we witness, there is a thread of political commentary glimmering under The Yard’s disco lights. A commentary that makes this show feel like a place outside of the heteronormative and capitalist affair that Christmas can be. Managed through the journey of a young man (Bulmer) who realises his own toxic masculinity, Santa and the Kings begin undoing some of his deep seated misconceptions on masculinity, queerness and of course, Christmas. The politic does not feel laboured but is handled succinctly and with care. This is most keenly realised when Chris Rea’s Driving Home for Christmas is performed, interrupted with voice overs revealing various degrees of discomfort over the destination. This moment made me consider my privilege in my own home at Christmas, where, apart from the odd argument over who ate the last Lindor, the environment is never hostile. It held up a mirror to the reality of many conversations, feelings and discomforts that occur over Christmas, where forced fun can quickly escalate to family trauma. The realisation of difficulty in a space that had cultivated joy for a near 90 minutes was perfectly crafted. In the wake of Boris Johnson’s election, this balance was not only a feat but a necessity. I left imagining: ‘What if Santa is in a polyamorous relationship with the elves? What would Christmas be without capitalism? And how can we make Christmas queerer?’ I don’t have all the answers, but I started to engage with them over this Christmas with my family. The tension increased but if there’s one thing I learnt from Pecsmas it is holding space for difficulty and difference can be the present you didn’t know you needed, and one that somebody else definitely did.