[[First a bit of background… I have a strange history with drag acts. When I was younger Dame Widow Twankie, and her counterparts, in various children’s pantomimes were my favourite characters. They always had the most entertaining sub-plots, the most risque jokes and if we’re honest what child wasn’t amazed by their frequent, colourful costume changes! As I grew I lost touch with drag as i stopped going to pantos. Appreciation turned into indifference and when I moved to Carlisle in 2010 it quickly turned to extreme dislike and intimidation. Outrageous Cabaret Bar was my most regular haunt and the in-house drag queens Creme Brulae and Lady Candarel were known to occasionally mime a few songs (awfully) in between slinging shots, insults and attitude at customers. (N.B. If you ignore these characters ‘Outrageous Cabaret Bar’ in Carlisle is and excellent night out I would recommend to anyone!) These ‘madams’ had a constant air of arrogance about them and from moving in the same social circles as them for three years I concluded that I did not like drag. Not only this, I also began to believe it was just a cheap show trick and not a credible form of performance. I was wrong. ]]
The majority of drag-acts that one see’s today are comedians who used the medium of song, movement monologue or all three to get as many laughs from an audience as possible. They are commonly known as ‘Queens’ and perform mainly at venues such as cabaret bars and LGBT pubs and clubs. Martin Kent’s ‘Slipstick’ is a popular one man drag act around cabaret bars in Benidorm, Spain but he is not a drag queen- he is a drag artist!
‘Slipstick’ is rivvetingly captivating and mind-blowingly slick from the very first moment Kent takes to the stage. His first impressive fete was to apply a full mask of extreme stage make-up to his face, without the use of a mirror, at an increasingly rapid speed in conjunction with an upbeat instrumental number. This instantly grabbed the audiences attention- a drag act that shows the creation of the mask! I quickly felt less alienated and more open to enjoying Kent’s act.
Kent masterfully assumed the personas of a number of characters during the next hour, from a somewhat expected Tina Turner to Benidorms most infamous performer ‘Sticky Vicky’. One of the first of these was a very characeture version of Rose from the film ‘Titanic’ (as originally played by Kate Winslet ) through out which Kent mimed to the Celine Dion hit ‘My Heart Will Go On’. The clever use of sound effects, props and Kent’s hilarious facial expressions had me in tears of uncontrollable laughter by the end of the first verse. I soon began to appreciate the sheer amount of time that must have been spent rehearsing this show to achieve the smooth continuity that pivotally added to the hilarity. From watching Kent maneuver slickly though this selection of colourful characters there are a few that stood out to me.
The ‘Sticky Vicky’ act was a huge crowd pleaser as not only did it poke fun at the real Vicky but also at Benidorm and its visitors to an extent, and who doesn’t enjoy some lighthearted mick-taking? Again the use of props and facial expression was excellent in this section of the show!
The point at which I realized Kent was a fine actor and not merely a Benidorm attraction was when he began performing as Liza Minnelli. As he energetically mimed the ‘Chicago’ hit ‘All That Jazz’ not only his facial expressions this time but his whole body and physicalities became an accurate representation of the real Liza. If Kent weren’t so obviously a male it’d pass for a very accurate and high standard of tribute act. No props or gags were used in this number, it was pure performance and it did not disappoint!
The only part of ‘Slipstick’ which I felt left something to be desired was when Kent appeared onstage as ‘the King of Rock and Roll’, ‘Elvis Presley’. I was skeptical as soon as I saw the Elvis outfit and heard the music begin. This skepticism was definitely founded as I thought the Elvis number seemed to be a bit of a “filler” in comparison to all the other parts of the performance. It relied heavily on a visual gag involving a fallace-like over sized microphone which while earning some laughs was a cheap joke and not nearly as memorable as the many other, cleverly, funny points in the show. I also felt Kent had went with the stereotypical ‘Elvis- impersonator’ physicality rather than undergoing research to really inhabit the character. This oversight meant the Elvis number did not shine nearly as much as the Liza Minnelli one. This only slightly hindered my enjoyment of ‘Slipstick’ however and I was soon captivated by Kent’s performance once again. I would suggest Kent remove the Elvis number from his show as it just seems unnecessary and potentially detrimental to the overall standard of the show.
The strongest image from ‘Slipstick’ for me appeared during the closing number. I have been unable to locate the name of the male singer but the song is a cover of Shirley Bassey’s ‘This Is My Life‘ and was beautifully fitting. Resonating with the opening number Kent appeared on a stage exempt of props apart from a make-up desk with no mirror. Instead of becoming a character this time Kent , by removing his make-up, wig and dress, was once again becoming Martin. While ‘de-dragging’ Kent lip-synced passionately to the emotional, bellowing male voice behind him and his expert timing led to the audience being presented with the strong, simple image of a man , a performer, standing bare except for underwear as the music continued…
“This is my life, today, tomorrow
Love will come and find me
But that’s the way I was born to be
This is me, this is me…”
There was a swelling depth of emotions during this number. A strong sense of pride from Kent, which was completely founded, and an almost savage depiction of strength suggesting a whole interesting story behind ‘Slipstick’ and the road to Kent’s success.
‘Slipstick’ is a feel-good show packed with impressions that cause nostalgia and all the rude bits that , lets face it, you have to have in Benidorm! Kent is the face of ‘Slipstick’ but I have to tip my cap to his colleague- the stage hand I noticed sprinting all over the place making sure props and costumes were set in the correct positions. It really is more like a two man show with both men working their socks off!
Right now ‘Slipstick’ is at the ‘Cafe Benidorm’, a great cabaret bar with good atmosphere and even better drink deals! I watched the show twice, once with a large audience and one with a more intimate crowd, and both were to a very high standard. My advice us that if you find yourself spending time in or near Benidorm for any reason do not miss ‘Slipstick’! Its a free show at the moment but I’m confident its only a matter of time before this immense talent will receive the recognition it deserves and move on to bigger and better venues.