EAT ME + Preach has risen to become one of Liverpool’s most vital performance events since launching in 2017. With its ability to stage live showcases hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic, once again its community of artists and performers are meeting societal challenges with creativity and ingenuity. In lockdown, there’s plenty of time to subvert the apocalypse.
EAT ME + PREACH were all set to subvert expectations of donning your best attire for Mothering Sunday. Back in March, the drag-cum-culinary cabaret, which has risen to become one of Liverpool’s most vital performance events since launching in 2017, had curated its latest live instalment to explore all things ‘mommy’. But, like the majority of events scheduled to run from early spring and beyond, it was wiped from the calendar by the escalating anxieties of the current pandemic.
“Covid-19 cancelled us and our scheduled show” says AUNTIE CLIMAX, Eat Me + Preach Founder and mainstay drag queen. “We wanted to find a way to make it up to our artists and give them a chance to make something responding to the current times.”
While much of the nation has assumed the role of spirited evening walkers or battled with compulsions to square up to new creative endeavours, those at the heart of the Eat Me + Preach community did what they do best: celebrate their eccentricity and perform. The ensuing lockdown gave rise to Eat Me + Preach: Apocalypse Edition – an hour-long live stream featuring nine performances interspersed with iconic horror clips topped with the showcase’s quintessential pizzazz.
To round off the lockdown package, the wild energy that courses around the showcases’ usual home of District comes direct from each performer’s home. “There was a lot of strong doomsday energy and anxiety [heading towards lockdown]”, says Climax, “and since drag is an inherently responsive and satirical form, it felt right to make [the performance] about ‘the apocalypse’.”
While each performer interprets the subtext in the own way, the regular clips taken from iconic horror films was “our way of holding a big bejewelled mirror up to media fearmongering”, says showcase staple and producer PRETENTIOUS DROSS. “I’ve always had a morbid fascination with the ‘end times’”, she adds, “and looking at our current situation through that satirical lens of hysteria just felt right.”
Thanks to backing from Homotopia, Eat Me + Preach were able to produce their “big strange baby” which brings their regular dose of affable absurdity to an otherwise encroaching worldwide discordance. With the full Apocalypse Edition showcase now available to stream – see bottom of article – we caught a quick socially distant chat with the show’s two producers about adaptation and further experimentation in the online sphere
Do you have optimism for the drag scene thriving in the online sphere?
Auntie Climax: Queers are the most inventive and adaptive people on the planet. Much like perennial weeds and crabs, we’ve survived many attempts by nature and humanity to eradicate us. We believe the work needs to adapt beyond lip syncs to camera and work to the strengths of the lo-fi online format. In the same way that DJs need to work out how to keep an audience’s attention if they’re not buzzing off their 5th pill in a crowd of 1000 people, our work now involves exploring, playing with and understanding new media. Finding ways to rebel, collaborate and interact with audiences, have fun and be subversive. Making work political, historical, and universal, while staying true to our trashy, sexy human selves. (The drag queen that fell asleep for three hours on a live stream was an amazing example of this.) To me – responsiveness is key. We’ve got a right-wing shower-o-cunts government, and fascist regimes popping up over the world, more inequality than ever before and 10 years to avert a climate catastrophe… There’s plenty of shit to make work about!
Pretentious Dross: I think drag thrived online before all this shit, so the groundwork was already there. Some Pink Tall Person [an alt-right trope aimed at Sasha Velour] once said that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’, and mother, I think some invention is necessary!
Are there any aspects of the show that gain from being digitally focused? Any particular elements that are lost in not being able to stage the performance live with an audience?
AC: We are able to have greater control in filmed work. We have the potential to curate shows more intentionally and collaborate with artists from anywhere in the world. It potentially enlarges our reach, and most of all, it allows us to be much more accessible. We’re able to reach people with online content that we weren’t able to reach before. We’re also able to use a different stylistic vocabulary to satirise television, music videos and film in a way we’re not able to (quite so effectively) with our live shows.
PD: I think the magic of Eat Me is that we create space for many different people – and that together (through difference) we poke the proverbial bear. That works in a slightly different way through digital content, but we’re trying really hard as producers to find ways to bring our community together in meaningful ways through digital platforms.
Are you confident of returning to staging the live performance later on in the year?
AC: I’m not confident of doing anything this year. Apart from wanking three times a day, re-watching Twin Peaks, and eating half the fridge with red, red eyes. But hey, what’s the Apocalypse for?
PD: I am hopeful, but in the moving words of Gwen Stefani: “THIS SHIT IS BANANAS.”