Having both been there during my personal introduction to London drag at Glastonbury 2014, Oozing Gloop and her sidekick-for-the-show Olympia Bukkakis are absolute veterans of the scene. One is the world’s premiere green, Autistic drag queen; the other, one of the best things to come out of down under since those two seconds when Homebase became Bunnings Warehouse. Now with both queens based In Berlin, to see them perform together at Battersea Arts Centre feels like an absolute treat.
In this cabaret, originally performed for the legendary Fierce performing arts festival last year, lip-syncing is reduced to a bare minimum. Instead, we make way for a whirlpool of spoken-word with a smattering of transcendental burlesque thrown in as well. All of this is to provoke discussion and awareness of the links between nature, climate change, queerness, neurodivergency and “simple” (read: bigoted and biased) news. While the capitalist bourgeoisie rule from their phallic tower to signal death from above, those who refuse to conform instead create their own ecosystem.
Being the more dramatically–trained of the two thanks to her early-10s stint with theatre company Sisters Grimm, Bukkakis is clearly a wonderful actor. During one segment, she arises from the venue’s mezzanine, proclaims herself to be a palaeontologist and warns us of the apocalypse festering from the earth beneath our feet, all in a most disturbing manner. Gloop especially commands during the show’s Goldilocks-themed climax, as well as the moments before where they talk about the kinship and inherent protest surrounding the “trans frog” phenomenon.
Performing alongside Gloop and Bukkakis are other stalwarts of trans* performance art including drag surrealist Wet Mess, who demonstrates a very intense striptease with an ending you’ll never expect. Unfortunately absent from my performance due to illness was the body horror of Bonnie Bakeneko, whose birth scene was instead recounted, ASMR-style, by Gloop.
The true standout, however, is Shrek666. Unlike the other performers on the bill, I’d never seen him perform live before – his expertise of SFX makeup and costuming paired with his natural talent for movement left me awestruck, even unnerved. And yes, while Jenkin van Zyl’s polished set design feels like a natural home for him, he is indeed from a swamp via Scotland.
The show does have two drawbacks – one being that the show needs to shave ten minutes or so off its runtime. Judging by the end of the (admittedly hilarious) water-cooler scene, I think they’re well-aware of it. Secondly, Wet Mess’ performance felt more suited to a more conventional cabaret at somewhere like The Glory or the Royal Vauxhall Tavern – they fit Into the aesthetic much better post-performance, back to the viewers and face to the wall, looking statuesque.
Aside from that, Tentacular Spectacular is worth a watch, effortlessly straddling memorable cabaret and insightful pedagogy. As Bukkakis explains during the aforementioned palaeontology segment, Mother Earth is not Gaia, but Medea, consistently killing what she herself has birthed. As she plans our extinction while the men in the high tower enforce five bouts of 9-to-5 labour a week on us, it’s best to let our non-conforming fungi grow and enjoy all the demon strippers and Spice Girls reminiscence while we can.