INTERVIEW: Bonnie & The Bonnettes | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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In what are tricky times for the region – much less the nation – as we bathe in endless political ennui and barrel headlong into a December containing a generation-defining general election, comedy comfort is here and queer in the sparkling form of Bonnie & The Bonnettes. As a festive season stuffed fatter than a Tofurkey with even more political buffoonery looms, the only sensible reaction is to throw on a wig, pull up your stockings and escape with some big, fun, vibrantly unapologetic cabaret, whatever the election result.

“Everyone needs to register to vote right now, find the best way to vote to unseat the Tories and get them out!” Exclaims theatre maker and stage manager Rebecca Glendenning. “Urgh! I am frustrated,” agrees facilitator and vocalist Hattie Eason, pouring fuel on the political bonfire. “We need a party in power who are going to back the arts and revive creative industries.”

Producer and director Cameron Sharp – the titular Bonnie alongside co-founders and Bonnettes Hattie and Rebecca – is exploding with excitement as the group gears up and queers up to drag us into 2020 with fun for all the family. “We’re all about trying new things, so for New Year’s Eve we have two shows, with one during the day for children. We’re really keen to present drag and queer work in all its glittery, colourful glory to young people, welcoming them into our amazing world and showing that it’s not scary or weird but just a lot of fun!”

Leaving 2019 with a bang, the NYE BonBons Blowout at Alphabetti Theatre promises to be one massive, unforgettable party, with both kiddie and adult shows alike promising a bounty of music, dancing lip-syncing and drag as Bonnie & The Bonnettes appear alongside Goth starlet MXYM, burlesque babe Mama Rhi, drag artist Vol-Au-Vent Love and their special guest, writer and cabaret artist Melody Sproates.

Buoyed by a wave of success that recently saw them deliver smash hit Halloween show The Haunted House of Love – boasting everything from classic horror to Lady Gaga – the gang first came together at Northumbria University in 2016. Hattie recalls “Cameron was working on his autobiographical performance Drag Me To Love and asked me to come on board. We worked really well together and quickly realised that this is something we both enjoyed doing and wanted to take further.”  With Drag Me To Love looking for a third member, Rebecca joined the team. “We were pretty set then,” said Hattie, “she’s funny, creative and has bags of talent.”

With the show quickly turning into a full-blown production, the nascent team decided to push forward their debut work while still at university. “We never expected Drag Me To Love to take off so quickly, so we rode the wave and took every opportunity that we could,” said Cameron.

“The way it launched our company none of us really saw coming,” said Rebecca, “now we’re in the industry our work still keeps that core of being entertaining and engaging, but we can feel other influences coming in. It’s really exciting that we’re just beginning!”

As 2019 creeps to a close, the year has been a phenomenal one for the group. As well as touring their second show And She, they presented four BonBons Cabaret shows at Alphabetti Theatre and toured with the House of Love. Next, an all-star team-up sees them set on a collision course with stellar comedy sketch company Your Aunt Fanny for Bonnie & Fanny’s Christmas Spectacular at Live Theatre from Thursday 12th-Saturday 14th December.

By listening, we can learn so much and begin to change perceptions towards queer people and other marginalised groups with something to say, and we can learn from each other

Hattie is pumped. ”The Fannies are beyond talented. The great thing about collaborating with a lush group of pure comic gold is that everyone’s humour is different; the show has something for everyone!”

“I love them all so much,” gushes Rebecca, “working together has been an absolute treat, and the show is relentless!”

Cameron agrees. “It’s been fantastic. Two young local companies coming together, it’s going to be everything! We’ve really mixed all the genres we work across into one big production, I’m so ready to show people the comedy magic we’ve created.”

For Bonnie & The Bonnettes, magic is squarely at the heart of what they do. While their inclusive queer alchemy never fails to deliver laughs, Cameron remains intent on offering fresh perspectives.

“We try to make people think something new while also having a mint night. As a queer person, it’s important that I share our stories, experiences and views, while offering a realistic portrayal of our lives. Sometimes I forget that I’m in a privileged theatrical bubble where queerness is accepted. If our work expands that bubble in a fun, positive way, then I’m happy.”

Rebecca flat-out loves the thrill of a live audience. “We make people laugh, have a good time and sometimes even feel a bit sad, so by the end there’s an understanding that we need to look after each other. By listening, we can learn so much and begin to change perceptions towards queer people and other marginalised groups with something to say, and we can learn from each other.”

For Hattie too, nothing holds more value than good old-fashioned entertainment. “I am proud to label myself an entertainer. If people feel like they’ve had a good night out, whether they’re laughing, crying or everything in between, then we’ve done our job!”

As the new year and the December general election loom large, Cameron aims to rise phoenix-like above the political bunfight. “Things are over-politicised. In an uncertain, crazy world we want people to come out, have a drink or two, spend time with friends and have a mint night out. We have an absolute ball, and we want our audience to do the same.”

Bonnie & The Bonnettes team up with Your Aunt Fanny at Live Theatre, Newcastle from Thursday 12th-Saturday 14th December. The BonBons Cabaret takes place at Alphabetti Theatre on Tuesday 31st December

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