What A Drag!

By Jen Seyderhelm

In the week before I got married, my work colleagues and future sister-in-law took me out to Men Afloat, or something of the ilk. I considered it some sort of rite of passage that I had to go through. 

Afterwards, I felt like I hadn’t enjoyed the experience, although I’d really tried to. I also felt that the men involved weren’t enjoying the experience, audience, or location (a little NSW country town) either.

Fifteen years later, not long before the pandemic, I was visiting the daughter of that sister-in-law in Brisbane; now a fledgling adult herself. I take being an aunt very seriously, and decided that during my stay I, too, would initiate her to the world of male entertainers, booking front row tickets to a show by Briefs Factory (great name btw) at the Powerhouse.

Man, my life and perspective were changed.

The now Briefs Factory International (thank-you-very-much) are heading to the Canberra Theatre in May for three performances. As co-founders and key creatives Mark Captain Kidd Winmill and Fez Faanana aka Shivanana will tell you, come prepared for some good old-fashioned escapism, draped in stunning outfits, and possibly presented to you upside down.

I managed to catch up with Mark and Fez as they tried to enjoy a precious day off after some gigs in Noumea. They’ve been together personally and professionally for more than 20 years, and are the yin to each other’s yang.

Photo by Naomi Reed

Mark, whose Captain Kidd moniker came about after being crowned King of Burlesque 2011 at the Las Vegas Burlesque Hall of Fame, speaks of how lucky they are to still be able to perform to national and international success.

Fez, whose Shivanana is the illegitimate love child of the bearded lady and ringmaster, is equally grateful.

“We just want to remind people that it’s still okay to have a great time,” Mark says.

An important mantra at the best of times, let alone the times we had to endure in recent years. Like many in the arts/performing industry, COVID hit HARD.

“We were heading to the Perth Fringe Festival in 2021,” Fez explains. “Half of us managed to get on a plane; the other half were turned away.”

But out of that comes this show, Dirty Laundry, which Mark describes as exactly what it says on the soap box,

“It’s our therapy show,” he quips. “But it’s an adventure. A celebration of survival.”

The Briefs’ team has always been about this, pre and post pandemic. They’re immensely proud of the way that they acknowledge the individual, their talent, gender identity, and unique background, both with the team they’re building with the Factory, and the devoted audience who follows and supports them.

Fez laughs about this.

“I’m from Ipswich,” he says. “Mark is from Grafton. Another in the team is from Broome. We’re relatable, and it’s always been about human interaction.”

So, who’s coming to Canberra? Fez gives us a colourful role call:

“Along with Captain Kidd and myself there’s Thomas Worrall, the amazing aerial acrobat. Juggler extraordinaire Louis Biggs. Luke Hubbard, better known by his drag persona Nastia. 

Dylan Rodriguez, or Enter Serenity, who can do the most amazing stunts in stilettos. And Brett Rosengreen, the ONLY Australian to be nominated in this year’s Burlesque Hall of Fame for Best Debut.”

Hell yes!

Working in the music industry for a long time, there is the inevitable genre compartmentalisation that occurs whenever a new artist emerges. We must put them into boxes, and compare them to similar artists: “Country/Folk – sounds like Miley Cyrus”.

Photo by Naomi Reed

With this in mind, I ask Mark and Fez how they’ve avoided this? I expected, at the show I saw in Brisvegas, that the crowd would be just women and gay men. 

It was nothing of the sort. Fez smiles at this:

“Drag has changed,” he says. “People don’t think they’re going to get heckled anymore. And we don’t need that defence mechanism. 

“I do have political commentary running throughout,” Fez continues. “But it’s with sass, not malice. 

“People get out of it what they’re ready for. If they want just an idiotic, yummy good time, we’ll provide it.”

And that they do. On all counts. The amazingly fit, strong, brilliant, dazzling, acrobatic, funny, and creative Briefs’ ensemble will knock your socks off, then put them in their dirty laundry. Take your partner, best mate, Mum, Dad, brother, boss, neighbour, neighbour’s neighbour – this truly is a show for everyone.

Briefs – Dirty Laundry is on at The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre from 10 – 13 May. Tickets are $79 + bf via the venue.

Photo by Naomi Reed
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