Trip to Sound of the Underground

In February we were invited to attend a showing of Travis Alabanza's Sound of the Underground at the Royal Court theatre
Royal Court theatre with Sound of the Underground in lights

Weather the storm event

Weather the Storm is part of Micro Rainbow’s Social Inclusion programme. There are regular events for LGBTQI refugees and asylum seekers that Micro Rainbow hosts under this programme. Our social inclusion programme aims to build friendships and reduce the extreme isolation faced by LGBTQI refugees, and to strengthen communities where networks are fragile. Social inclusion events can take a variety of forms – from support groups to outings to museums, theatre trips, talks and more. On 8 February, Micro Rainbow beneficiaries were invited to attend a performance of Sound of the Underground, Travis Alabanza and Debbie Hannan’s ground-breaking new play at the Royal Court.

Sound of the Underground spotlights UK underground drag culture, featuring eight stalwarts of the scene: Ms Sharon Le Grand, Sue Gives a Fuck, Sadie Sinner the Songbird, Lilly SnatchDragon, Wet Mess, Midgette Bardot, Prinx Chiyo, and Rhys’s Pieces.

 

Queer cabaret comes to Sloane Square

Sound of the Underground is a mix of cabaret show, kitchen-sink theatre, and workers’ manifesto. It explores the value of drag as an outsider art form, and explores the tension created by its exploding popularity. The contemporary ubiquity of boozy drag brunches, RuPaul’s drag race and queens featuring in advertising campaigns suggests that drag is now part of mainstream culture. A big part of Sound of the Underground is asking whether it should be. As an underground outsider art form, the performers in Sound of the Underground make plain that while mainstream success has increased wages and opportunities, it’s also led to a downturn in originality and quality.

Furthermore, an imagined expectation of ‘what drag is’, influenced by the global behemoth that is drag race, means that the artists really pushing the boundaries – usually the ones who aren’t white, conventionally attractive cis gay men – are driven further to the margins, less able to make a living. Sound of the Underground foregrounds those at the margins, providing a showcase for different bodies, different interpretations of drag and cabaret and a celebration of club culture. Each artist is wildly different, and Sound of the Underground provides them with the space to showcase their individual and unique talents – be that dance, singing, comedy, or all the above. 

 

Micro Rainbow’s social inclusion programme

Sound of the Underground was a uniquely special opportunity for Micro Rainbow’s beneficiaries to learn about and experience varied drag performances and performers. It can be daunting (and expensive) to venture out into London’s queer nightlife. Weather the Storm’s programme of social inclusion events presents opportunities for LGBTQI asylum seekers and refugees to have theatre experiences such as this.

For beneficiaries who might only know drag through the Drag Race juggernaut, Sound of the Underground made it clear that in the UK scene there is, and should always be space for a wide range of identities and talents. All of the acts were highly original and spoke to the diversity and imagination of performers working in and around the UK drag scene. For the trans asylum seekers who attended, it was validating and important to be able to see trans performers on stage.

The play ends with a powerful speech from Prinx Chiyo that touches on the need for people who enjoy the art form to show their support for the performers – particularly the trans performers – who are creating the art. We were left with this vitally important sentiment as we gathered our things and ventured back into the lights of west London.

If you would like to learn more about the social inclusion programme, check out this page. We also offer housing and moving on support for LGBTQI refugees and asylum seekers.

Do you have a social inclusion enquiry?

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