Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review (cabaret): Holestar presents Sorry I’m a Lady at The Street (Venue 239). Review by Ben Walters
The sensational impact of bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst’s Eurovision victory underlined how rare it is these days to see gender-bending in popular media. As London-based alternative performer Holestar reminds us in her debut solo show, there was a time – the 1980s – when mainstream culture was full of the likes of Boy George and Divine mixing things up. Holestar mixes things up too. Deciding gay men shouldn’t have a monopoly on over-the-top glamour, she became a female drag queen: a woman dressed like a man dressed like a woman. Sorry I’m a Lady is the story of how it happened.
It is, therefore, the story of a decidedly unusual life. Julie Hole joined the army as a teenager (she was – yes! – Private Hole), then studied photography, worked as a dominatrix and DJ, lived in Vienna and faced down depression and a chronic condition affecting her joints before finding her groove amid the fast-changing environment of east London. This wide-ranging set of issues and experiences is represented in an array of forms, from songs to the recreation, using what we hope was chocolate spread, of a particularly memorable dominatrix session.
It’s a raucous hour laced with canny observations and wit: sex work is described as “one-to-one theatre, of a kind” while young gay men revel in the discovery that “life is a penis buffet!” But this is, at heart, a fundamentally sincere work about the need to value the welfare of oneself and others, especially those who are, in whatever sense, queer. Ultimately, the show feels compelling and empowering because Holestar’s voyage of discovery, unique as it is, has resonance for anyone who’s struggled to find their place.
Until 12 August. Today 7:45pm, more info
Originally published in The Scotsman