INTERVIEW: BONNIE & THE BONNETTES | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Loud, fun and entirely unapologetic, the North East-based theatre company, drag trio and all-round good time Bonnie & The Bonnettes are about to stage a triumphant return back into our lives and into our very living rooms, bedrooms and home offices with Boogie On Up; a series of short video performances promising to make us shake our tail feathers, stomp our feet and shimmy the day away.

On the cusp of this upcoming avalanche of exuberance, Hattie Eason is squirrelled away alone upstairs in a Northern Stage theatre rehearsal space, pining for fellow co-founders Cameron Sharp and Rebecca Glendenning on the floor below.

“I’m so lonely! Cam and Becky live together, and we decided not to go forward as a working bubble because we have our bubbles in the outside world, so Northern Stage has worked with us to make it possible to all be in the room along with our videographer TJMov. We’re doing everything in masks, sanitising and all that, but actually, it’s the most normal it’s felt in a year.”

Despite the logistical challenges of developing a new show in the rarefied atmosphere of a global pandemic, Cameron Sharp remains sanguine. “Northern Stage and Live Theatre have been really good helping us figure out how we work safely in a Covid world, and Boogie On Up is a direct response to us not being able to be in the same space as our audiences.”

Boogie On Up is released on Northern Stage and Live Theatre’s online platforms on the 14th and 26th of each month from March to June, Cameron is thrilled by the opportunity to offer bite-size chunks of Bonnie.

“They’re easy for people to digest then carry on with their day. Everyone’s heads are so full we think people need a bit of fun, a bit of a boogie and a bit of relief. As silly as it sounds, we want to give our audiences the same experience they would have at one of our shows, only in a living room or a home office. They don’t need to dress up or be able to dance, but it is encouraged.”

“People don’t need to have seen us before, either; they can be completely new to us,” Becky Glendenning affirms. “We felt a tiny bit useless early in the pandemic thinking how we could give something back, and if this is how we can do it, by giving people a little break for three minutes, then that’s what we’ll do.”

Hattie is over the moon too that said boogies are not only completely free to watch, but they’ll stay online beyond their release. “So if you want to watch all eight in a row with your mates over Zoom and make a night of it, you can!”

It’s a bracing, gloriously inevitable return to the spotlight for the much-loved company who found themselves, like many in the cultural scene, smack-bang in the middle of projects when the pandemic swept the land.

the time is right for the return of foot-stomping, pant-wetting, glitter-throwing drag. It’s just what the doctor ordered, practically a public service

“We were looking forward to our next show, I Died In A Mosh Pit, which is a collaboration with The Six Twenty,” Cameron reflects. “We’re still doing that and adjusting how we’re going to do it. The time away has been nice though, as it forced us to stop and evaluate where we are as a company, where we want to be and how we’re going to get there, so we’re trying to think about it as a positive.”

“We’ve tried to use it as a time for reflection and planning,” confirms Becky, “do things even though nobody can do anything, and plan for when we finally can do things, like Boogie On Up.”

For a company that has been non-stop since its inception in 2016, the suddenly imposed hiatus was jarring. Yet, for Hattie, the passage of time has inspired both consolidation and strategic reflection.

“When we started, we were very ‘go go go’. We toured our first show for three seasons, then got to work on the next show straight away, all while doing cabaret nights. People loved it, and we were on this mission to continually perform, so it’s been nice to take a step back to look at what’s working for us and what isn’t. We’ve considered what our audiences love most about us and how we can offer them more moving forward, and how we can give them what they love about us right now in the middle of all this.”

For those of us with our appetites thoroughly whetted post-Boogie On Up, 2021 promises the return of The BonBons Cabaret – a cabaret show that celebrates the very best queer, emerging talent from the North East, something Cameron is particularly passionate about.

“We think it’s really important for queer people to have that space and that sense of community again, that good night out. I Died In A Mosh Pit is going to be the best show ever too. I know everyone says that, but I think it’s going to be mint! We’ve got to a stage where we’ve come to own what our craft is.”

If that wasn’t enough, Bonnie and Fanny’s Christmas Spectacular is pegged to return to Live Theatre. A crossover to end all crossovers, this festive mash-up sees our trio share the stage once more with Your Aunt Fanny, the unstoppable Live Theatre-spawned comedy sketch group.

“That was meant to happen last year!” cries Hattie. “What’s so lovely is that we know it’s going to come in some form. Live Theatre said we want you and the Fannies back for Christmas, which makes us feel so good. We can’t wait to be back in a room with them, and the fact we get to offer that again will be the highlight of going back to the theatre for us.”

With their electrifying live works Drag Me To Love, And She and The BonBons Cabaret sparkling like disco balls in our collective memory somewhere south of the lost year that was 2020, the time is right for the return of foot-stomping, pant-wetting, glitter-throwing drag. It’s just what the doctor ordered, practically a public service, something Cameron singularly agrees with. “I want to be knighted; I want to be a dame after this!”

Surely granting this wish is the least our nation can do in return.

Bonnie & The Bonnettes release Boogie On Up performances on the 14th and 26th of each month from March to June via Northern Stage, Live Theatre and their own website

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