The UK’s only Drag Prince; Alfie Ordinary has been taking the drag and cabaret scene by storm – winning awards at the Brighton, San Diego and Adelaide Fringe.
He has worked alongside some of the UK’s top cabaret artists such as David Hoyle and Dickie Beau, and international RuPaul’s Drag Race stars such as Raja Gemini, Alaska Thunderf*ck, Adore Delano and Sharon Needles – to name a few. Alfie toured the UK and Ireland in 2018 opening for Jinkx Monsoon: Is Cursed. He has also recently worked with UK Drag Race runner ups Divina De Campo and Baga Chipz.
After a sell-out run at Edinburgh Fringe last year, award-winning Son-of-a-Drag Queen brings his critically acclaimed show to the New Adelphi Theatre this LGBT History Month!
Set in a camp, queer utopia with a soundtrack including Village People, Whitney Houston and the Sugababes, this coming-of-age story in drag will leave you feeling fabulous. Using puppetry, live music and storytelling; Alfie challenges the ‘norm’ and questions what it really means to be a man, in a hilarious and heart-warming tale that explores pride, shame and masculinity.
Ash Cox and Helena Wright interview Alfie ahead of his arrival.
New Adelphi Theatre: Hi Alfie (may we call you Alfie when you’re not in drag?)
Alfie: Absolutely! May I call you Shirley?
Shirley: Absolutely! What pronouns do you prefer people to use when you’re in drag?
Alfie: He/Him, and thank you for asking!
Shirley: You’re welcome! Both Ash Cox and Helena Wright’s pronouns are She/Her. So, you’re a Drag Prince, son-of- a-drag-queen – tell us more about that…
Alfie: Well I wanted to make a character that had all the ingredients of drag, so sequins, big lashes, makeup, wigs, but I wanted to explore ‘otherness’ further so played around with applying those ingredients to a male character. It all came together when I stumbled across the idea of making the character the son of a drag queen. Every outfit Alfie wears I want to look like his mum has made it from an old dress, and the songs he sings are all songs you’d hear at an old school drag show. It’s been so much fun studying drag, going to shows and seeing how the queens work, then applying it to this character!
Shirley: We wish our mums would have dressed us like you! As the UK’s only Drag Prince, you’ve been someone to watch in the UK Drag scene and this has led to you working with a lot of international artists who’ve appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race – do you feel its expansion may change the UK drag scene?
Alfie: Drag Race has already changed the scene. There’s a spotlight on drag that we haven’t seen for a while. Apart from the obvious, we haven’t had a drag queen on television in years, and now we’re having ten a year! It’s amazing seeing all the queens reaching higher levels of success from this platform and it’s great to see people engaging with drag in such a way, because really, when you engage with drag, you engage with a queerness that can exist in everyone, whether you’re gay, straight, trans, whatever. Drag promotes an acceptance, both in yourself and in others.
Shirley: Exactly! Do you have any advice for emerging Drag Artists?
Alfie: Stand out! Be bold, be daring and be different. There are thousands of drag queens being born every day, but the ones that stand out are doing something new. Juno Birch is an alien, Ginny Lemon only wears yellow, Lydia L’Scabies is covered in bugs. Drag should be new, fresh and challenging, but ultimately, have fun!
Shirley: It looks like so much fun (and like a lot of work goes into it) so Alfie Ordinary was born from theatre?
Alfie: I’m so lucky to have had two incredible and very different experiences with arts education. I did a BA at Dartington College of Arts in Devon. Dartington was a place where you got deliberately lost, with all the rules thrown out of the window. I was encouraged to think outside of the box and ask more questions than ever before. I spent two years studying minimalism and cubes. Then after a year out, where I started to find drag and cabaret, I began a Masters at the University of Chichester. I saw so much amazing theatre and worked with people like Dickie Beau, David Hoyle, Bryony Kimmings and Scottee as part of the course. The tutors encouraged me to look into cabaret, drag and otherness and embrace my identity as a queer person. Through the masters, I was able to unlock the box that I’d been obviously hiding in and start to work with my own narrative as a queer artist and make queer work. I actually wrote ‘Help!’ while I was studying at Chichester, and began testing out the material at local cabaret shows.
Shirley: Wow! What a journey! Do you have any top tips for students studying creative subjects?
Alfie: Go and see as much work as you can. If you like something, become a fan. Find out who is doing the best in whatever field you’re interested in and see their shows. There is so much to be learned from just seeing a show, even if it’s what not to do in yours. It’s so important to immerse yourself in the creative industry, even if it is just going to see shows. While I was at uni, we had a budget set aside specifically to see shows. So we’d go on road trips once or twice a month to see work. There are also loads of opportunities to get involved and meet artists and see their work. I borrowed my sister’s car and volunteered as a driver for Fierce Festival one weekend where I saw Quilla Constance, Cakes Da Killa and Heather Cassils, all whose work inspired me in mine. Keep an eye on notice boards and sign up to arts industry mailing lists and say “YES” to anything you can. You never know where you will go, and that’s exciting!
Shirley: Great advice for our University of Salford students – thank you. Speaking of immersing yourself… You sold-out your Edinburgh Fringe run! How was that?
Alfie: It was mad! Edinburgh was the most intense month of my life. I was doing 2 or 3 shows every day, running across the city from gig to gig. I was really lucky to have an incredible team working with me and a lovely
venue. Edinburgh is such a mixed bag of emotions. On one hand you’re exhausted and on the verge of tears, but on the other hand, there are moments that can never happen anywhere else. I had some amazing experiences, like performing at the National Museum of Scotland, doing the Hokey Cokey in front of historical museum pieces, and then sitting on the sofa with Debbie McGee on Christopher Biggins chat show.
Shirley: The Hokey Cokey at the National Museum of Scotland was one of our highlights of Ed Fringe! And you met the legendary Sir Ian McKellen there too! Tell us what that was like…
Alfie: Oh my goodness. It was so surreal to look out into the audience in Edinburgh and see Sir Ian McKellen sat in the back row. He waited behind to say hello and tell me he loved the show. The whole building was buzzing because
Ian had popped in to watch my little show in the smallest room in the attic. It was such an honour, not only to have an incredible, legendary theatre performer in the house, but an inspiring LGBTQ+ activist too. I actually reference the ‘Some People Are Gay’ Stonewall T-Shirts in my show which was funny considering he was one of the spearheads of that campaign. He’s done so much work for equality, and it was so lovely to be able to have him at the show.
Shirley: What an iconic and inspirational fan to have! Tell us what your adaptation – ‘Some People Are Fabulous, Get Over It’ – means to you.
Alfie: Being fabulous is being yourself, whatever that is. If you’re confident in yourself and love yourself, you are fabulous in my eyes. It’s a word that I became attached to because it can mean anything. You can look at anyone or anything and describe them as fabulous, regardless of what or who they are. It sounds cliche, but anyone can be fabulous in their own way, and I love that.
Shirley: Wise words! What do you think the key to being a fabulous person is?
Alfie: Be 100% authentically you.
Shirley: We agree. Speaking of authentic, we’ve heard you love a world-buffet. If this show was a buffet, what would be on the menu?
Alfie: Something fruity.
Shirley: Haha. Okay, you be sweet and fruity and we’ll be savoury – good combo! You’ve toured across the world with Help! I Think I might Be Fabulous – and you have won awards in Brighton, Australia and Hollywood (congratulations) – what’s the strangest thing that happened when you were touring the world?
Alfie: I think probably arriving in Australia for my second season there and seeing a huge picture of me and my wig in arrivals. It’s literally the first thing you were greeted with when you land. Turns out the Fringe was using a gorgeous picture from the year before of me leading 1000 people doing the YMCA. That was pretty weird I’d say.
Shirley: 1000 people doing the YMCA – we’d have loved to have seen that! And now you’re heading to Salford, where are you joining us from?
Alfie: I live in sunny Brighton. It’s so gorgeous
here. There’s never a dull moment. There’s drag shows on every night of the week, and so many wonderful events for the queer community like Gal Pals, Traumfrau, The Marlborough, Pride. It’s got everything a big city offers, but with a small seaside town feel to it.
Shirley: Sounds lovely! We also know how much you love the north of England, what is it about Manchester and Salford that appeals so much?
Alfie: I don’t know! I guess every time I travel up north I’m met with such a warm welcome. Everyone just seems happier. Maybe it’s the accent but it feels like everyone has more time for each other, and I love that!
Shirley: We are a friendly bunch aren’t we! Now we don’t want to spoil the surprise for our Salford audience, but can you tell us a little bit about your award-winning show ‘Help! I Think I Might Be Fabulous!’ and why you made it?
Alfie: It’s a bit of an origin story, introducing Alfie, his world and the concept of a drag prince. We have a little taste of what it might be like to live in a world where queerness isn’t queer, it’s the norm, and it’s all set to my favourite songs from the Sugababes, Bette Midler, Tiffany, Whitney Houston and Christina Aguilera.
Shirley: Tunes! Is there any particular reasons you chose this soundtrack?
Alfie: I wanted songs that people knew, songs that people could sing along to. Music can bring people together, even just for a few minutes.
Shirley: We’re looking forward to having a good ol’ sing-along! After you’ve visited us, what’s next for Alfie Ordinary?
Alfie: I don’t know! Drag can take you anywhere, and that’s part of what makes it such a great field to work in. I work in clubs, theatres, museums, bars, festivals. The possibilities really are endless, and the sky is the limit!
Shirley: it sure is…
Images credits: 1) Alfie Ordinary Header. 2) Adam Bronkhorst – Alfie Ordinary Bus Stop. 4) Greg Bailey – Alfie Ordinary Party. 5&6) Alfie Ordinary – Jinkx Monsoon & Adore Delano. 7) Ash Cox – Sir Ian McKellen at Ed Fringe. 8) David Smith – Alfie Ordinary, Some People Are Fabulous, Get Over It. 9&10) Alfie Ordinary – Brighton Fringe. 11) David Smith – Alfie Ordinary, Help! I Think I Might Be Fabulous. 12) Kate Pardey – Alfie Ordinary, Help! I Think I Might Be Fabulous. 13) David Smith – Alfie Ordinary Fly.