RuPaul’s Drag Race star and Aussie drag icon, Courtney Act, is making a splash at the apex of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras with the world premiere of Fluid.
Act will take to the Eternity Playhouse stage for her latest pop-cabaret co-produced with the Darlinghurst Theatre Company.
Audiences can expect everything from dancing to singing to quick-witted comedy as Act reflects upon her journey towards self-discovery and acceptance and unpacks concepts of gender, sexuality and queer identities.
Speaking in an interview with Star Observer, Act said that while it’s exciting to be back in Sydney for the queer-festivities, she’s also feeling a mix of emotions over the premiere of Fluid – one of Act’s first shows to feature completely original music from the Aussie-icon herself.
“I’m so pumped for Mardi Gras because when I’m in Sydney, it’s always Mardi Gras for me,” she chuckled.
“My friends have been planning their outfits for months, and it’s just been so much fun, but so scary to really have a show that uses so much original material.
“I was shitting myself at first because original music means that no one knows the songs and I’ve always relied heavily on the idea that ‘don’t worry, if everything’s going to shit then there’s always some Cyndie Lauper.'”
Act also noted that Fluid’s musical content departs from the typical hot-pot of songwriting from other “Swedish-ish” musicians, and instead features songs written and produced by Act which draw upon personal experiences from her glam-packed life.
“I usually work with multiple skilled, Swedish-ish musicians but the music producer who I’m working with in London, Ian Masterson, got me to really make more than the bones of my music for Fluid.
“This year it’s like a real thing. I started by writing songs after a weekend in Vienna, and once I got over that initial fear of writing the first song by myself, I sent it off to Ian and he absolutely loved it. From there I just pumped out all these songs and co-wrote a couple of pieces, and then putting the show together was easy because I had the bones and all the stories in between.”
‘Courtney Act’, a pun on the phrase “caught in the act” when pronounced with an Australian accent, came to public prominence after appearing on the first season of Australian Idol in 2003.
Since her Idol debut, 37-year-old Act, whose real name is Shane Jenek, continued to rise when she competed in season six of RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2014 and has since appeared on the 21st season Celebrity Big Brother UK (CBB UK) in 2018, and Dancing With The Stars.
During her successful career as a performer, Brisbane-born Act has also remained a strong voice for the queer community – championing better representation of gender fluidity, pansexuality and polyamory.
Act told Star Observer that her latest pop-cabaret aims to unpack the role of labels in one’s life, as well as analysing and understanding one’s identity when these labels are blurred or removed altogether.
“Labels are often stronger when trauma is present. You look at the queer community, at people of colour, at women – you see a real importance of identification with a label,” she noted in a sombre tone.
“There’s a need for community, comradery and visibility that occurs. I strongly identified with the queer community from the age of 18 when I knew that’s who I was. But, I always struggled with the label of ‘Man’, and it wasn’t until 2014 when the label of ‘genderfluidity’ was presented to me.
“Just because you had a penis, it didn’t mean you have to be a man in the archetypal Australian sense. I know that should’ve been obvious, but I somehow got to thirty-something without ever knowing that it was ok for a boy to be feminine.
“Just that label, ‘genderfluid,’ immediately liberated me from the struggle of my 20s with gender and masculinity and femininity. It was this real battle that raged inside me and expressing myself through Courtney, was really the most socially acceptable way to explore my femininity… weirdly.”
In Act’s case, Fluid tells the story of her personal experiences un-learning the labels that she’s struggled with her whole life and depicts her journey towards the acceptance of her duality as a masculine and feminine person.
“So, Fluidity to me is about moving off the societal expectations of who we are and really listening to our own thoughts and feelings about who we are. Which are my thoughts, and which are the usually-binary thoughts that don’t serve me,” she said.
“We’re living in a great time ‘Queer is cool’, and I wanted to make sure that I can contribute something that keeps this movement going further.
“I think all of these identity politics, all of these labels, are just there to give people the safe in-between to allow themselves to be who they are.”
However, Act’s humour shone through even in her most profound moment.
“Shit, that went somewhere else didn’t it!,” Act’s giggle returning to her voice.
“I thought this was just going to be more about wigs or something!”
While Act was tight-lipped about any ‘lewks’ that audiences can expect from an evening at Fluid, she did give the Star Observer a subtle hint about what wigs audiences might see, and let’s just say that it seems nothing is going to be cut-short while Courtney performs.
“Well Vanity, the drag queen who has that cult-following in Insta, suggested that I get an Annie Lenox haircut for the opening night,” Act said with a smirk in her voice.
“Well I instantly felt my sphincter recoil but, we’re still workshopping this opening hairstyle. I’m still damaged from the early 2000s when I had only one wig. Jillian, I think her name was. I cut it way too short, so now I’m scarred for wearing a short wig again but Vanity, who is my biggest critic, is pretty keen on it so… who knows?”
“Then again, big wigs go better with a big show!”
Act will be performing for one week at the Eternity Playhouse in Darlinghurst, with Fluidity running from Saturday 21 February to Saturday 28 February – finishing just in time for the Mardi Gras parade money-shot.
Starting from 8 pm onwards, this is the show of the season that simply cannot be missed by any queer or questioning!
For information on tickets, prices and times click here.