While fans of drag in Gauteng have had to settle for largely second-rate shows and the same-old-same-old routines, Cape Town aficionados of the genre have been privy to a growing body of work from the country’s finest drag duo.
Mince, consisting of Martin van Staden (Keiron Legacy) and Clive Allardyce (Lilly Slaptsilli), have now been at it for 12 years – spoofing popular culture, honouring the great divas, and doing it all with remarkable style.
It’s largely their immaculate sense of contemporary aesthetic – in terms of costume and imaging – that make Mince stand out from the rabble, but don’t discount their sharp sense of humour, slick performances and cleverly conceived routines.
These are no sorry-looking geriatric or overweight drag performers. The Mince girls are sleek, sassy, searingly sexy and boast the best legs on stage (and, quite possibly, off). Lilly and Keiron are probably every straight man’s ultimate fantasy women; possibly barring the odd unexpected appendage.
Mince will be appearing in Gauteng at the end of May at Pretoria’s Legends nightclub, performing their newest hit show The Da Mincey Code. To commemorate the occasion, Mambaonline got to know the men behind the Mince women in an exclusive interview.
How did you end up doing drag? Was it a childhood thing?
Martin: I’ve always been fascinated with drag. I’ve been in my mum’s heels since a small child. I started in the army and realised how responsive the audiences were so I decided to make it part of my career.
Clive: For me it was never a childhood dream or wish. Acting certainly was, but drag never crossed my mind!
How did you two meet? Was it drag at first sight?
C: It WAS drag at first sight!
M: Clive came to see me perform at Eauver The Top Theatre many years ago and approached me to perform at the Dock Rd Theatre in drag. We planned on performing for one season and twelve years later, here we are!
Do either of you have any background in drama (I mean the professional kind)?
C: I did drama at school and won a couple of awards and finally got scouted by an agent and landed up doing a few commercials and small cameo roles in stage productions.
Why do you enjoy doing drag?
M: It’s really a platform for my natural ability to entertain.
C: I agree. I guess it allows me to let my creative show-off side out.
What do you think is the fascination that gay men have with strong dramatic women – the divas?
M: I think it’s the voice, the balls and the glamour…
C: Strong dramatic divas have embraced their masculine side. So I think it’s natural for a gay man to explore his feminine side.
Do people think of you as being less masculine since you started doing drag?
C: I actually think my drag experience has encouraged me to explore my masculine side even more…
M: I have never really been masculine so wouldn’t really be able to comment on other people’s perceptions…
C: It’s all ignorant judgement, I guess. Most people can’t see me as Lilly Slaptsilli when they meet me outside of the theatre.
Other than performing the characters, what other roles do you have in the team?
M: We both play an integral part in coming up with the entire show. Clive is the technical and audio visual expert as well as a much better business man than I am, but the show is developed by both of our input.
C: We collaborate on everything. Our partnership is very balanced and we try to listen to each other’s input. Through trial and error we always find a happy medium by curtain up.
“We genuinely make a concerted effort to never mock or offend the female goddess. We truly celebrate the female species…” – Clive
What’s the most difficult thing about doing the shows?
C: I find the pre-production hard; choosing material and coming up with original ideas and doing all the audio visual inserts…
M: Tucking away specific parts of our anatomy!
C: And the shaving and make-up, prepping of wigs and costumes. And of course, the fear of failure…
How do your families feel about these alter-egos of yours?
M: I’m truly blessed. My family always supports me in all my endeavours.
C: The family have been great. They know me best of all and understand from my growing up that this is merely a character I play – and not a lifestyle
How do you define yourselves: Drag queen… drag performer?
M: Drag Artist or female impersonator…
C: Drag artist and or actor. I try to push the boundaries of lip-synching. The avid Mince fan will notice that I often choose difficult characters with real tongue-twisting hard-to-wrap-your-lips-around songs.
What would you say to those gay men that feel that drag is an embarrassing aspect of gay culture?
M: Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
C: I would recommend they come see Mince and they will almost surely change their minds. Normally those are the same queens who don a frock on gay pride day and add to the embarrassing rep that we as artists have tried to change over the past 12 years.
And what about the fact that some feminists have said that drag makes a mockery of women…
C: They’re often right! That’s why Mince is different to other shows… We genuinely make a concerted effort to never mock or offend the female goddess. We truly celebrate the female species.
M: I have nothing but respect for women!
Of all the divas you impersonate, which is your favourite? And are there any other drag performers that inspire you?
M: Eartha Kitt and Kikki and Herb.
C: Bette Midler and Lilly Savage.
Martin, how would you describe Keiron Legacy?
M: A sexy vixen that has a capacity to both stab and bleed with you at the same time.
How did you come up with the character?
M: She isn’t a character. She is an integral part of who I am.
Is it really true that Keiron and a friend won the best-dressed couple competition at the J&B Met a few years ago when the judges thought you were a woman? Did you get to keep the prize?
M: It is true! And we were given our case of whiskey. However the real juicy prizes were very diplomatically denied [after the judges realised that Keiron was not a woman]. Shame on them! My consolation was the amazing publicity that I received.
Clive, what about Lilly Slaptsilli?
C: She can only see humour in every situation and always aims to make her audience laugh whether it is with her, at her, or at themselves. She is sassy yet silly, ballsy yet bouncy and always common yet classy.
Did she come to you immediately?
C: It was immediate. The character has refined herself over the years, bearing in mind that we play nine characters per show that have nothing to do with Lilly Slaptsilli… Lilly only shows her true colours during the gossipy chinwag session before interval.
Are you single or involved? Does doing Mince help or hinder your love life?
M: I’ve been happily involved for the last eight years. Mince doesn’t hinder my love life but it was tough being single. And thank god my lover is broad minded.
C: Single this week… And yes it certainly does hinder my chances. It often turns out that the fella has ne