the black cap

Camden’s longest running show goes on as the Black Cap's drag divas sing (or mime) their hearts out
Article and pictures
by Rachel Ong

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Trashville Tennessee

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The place is legendary – atmospheric pub complete with garden terrace by day, drag cabaret extravaganza by night. There’s more to the Black Cap than meets the eye – and if you’ve ever wondered what lies behind that inconspicuous black door next to Boots on Camden High Street, here’s your chance to find out.

Legend has it that the site of the black cap was occupied by witches in the 16th century and acts of torture took place here. Four centuries later, the Black Cap is now one of the best-known drag cabaret venues and is still home to a fairly bitchy array of characters. Celebrated performers include Lily Savage (who got her start here), Julian Clary and Graham Norton. “We used to have cabaret every night of the week, but now it’s down to three: Tuesday, Fridays and Sundays,” says assistant manager Wayne.. The acts could be anything from a live drag show to a game quiz or performers who sing a few numbers. Recently its Sandra on Tuesdays, Dave Lynn on Sundays and on Fridays we feature new acts, usually vocalists.”

SandraResifdent performer Sandra has worked at the Black Cap for 20 years. She describes her act as “mad, zany, filthy, disgusting. I’m like a black version of Ruby Wax.” Sandra’s sassy sense of humour works off audience participation. “The audience varies, I’ll be honest with you, “ she confides, mock seriously. “If you get a predominantly straight crowd come in they’re like… (mouth agape). I don’t know if its because they’re shocked or that I look better than their wives or girlfriends – you can never tell. Either way, they’re usually very receptive to us.”

Sunday night resident Dave Lynn is originally from the Brighton Circuit and has won countless awards for his show, including the Golden Handbag’s “Favourite Entertainer” award and Boy magazine’s “best drag act”. Dave’s verbal banter is shockingly entertaining – even old hand Eric the barman is tickled by his innuendo. Dave has also appeared in Channel Four’s “Faking It”, helping a military man convince judges that he’s a natural queen.

The Friday night I show up, a duo act by the name of “Trashville Tennessee” are abouThe Black Cap, Camdent to perform. Offstage they are Andrew and Wesley – two Portsmouth boys who trained in performance arts before making it on the circuit. After an hour of piling on the glitter make-up, donning the sequinned frocks and 5-inch heels, they become Dolly and Cassidy – our hostesses in their vibrant world of middle America trailer trash who may (or may not) sleep with animals.

Wesley/Cassidy elaborates on their stage show. “It tells a story – we do impersonations of celebrities who have visited Trashville like Lisa Minelli, Judy Garland, Cher, Diana Ross and Elton John…” Andrew/Dolly interjects: “We rewrite words to a lot of pop songs and almost comment on the original singers. For one show we re-did Will Young’s ‘Evergreen’ to ‘Vaseline’. We sing anything from show music to pop to gospel to rap – there’s no particular genre we take from.”

When they take to the stage, the crowd starts dancing to their version of Abba song ‘Gimme, Gimme, Gimme’, rewritten so it’s a drug they want before midnight and not a man.

The Black Cap: 171 Camden High Street. Map ref: E14

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