Review: The Cocoa Butter Club at Contact is “powerful, with a poignant message”

Manchester is no stranger to drag shows, burlesque and loud music.

So if that’s what you’re looking for then you’re in the right city, and The Cocoa Butter Club are here to show you what you’ve been missing.

The Cocoa Butter Club, created by Sadie Sinner are an award-winning performance company, showcasing and celebrates performers of colour. A first of its kind they give a voice and a stage to Black, Asian and racially othered performers and make sure they are booked and busy!

For one night only, The performers of The Cocoa Butter club, where the melanated are celebrated took to the Contact theatre stage with their unique showcase of talents. From pole dancing to Bollywood this showcase had it all, hosted by the hilarious YShee Black, the two-hour show has the audience hooked from beginning to end.

Opening the show, YShee struts onto the stage in a floor-length, gold-velvet gown. Her brummie accent comes through as she chats to the audience and introduces herself and fellow performers. Most people will be used to seeing drag artists and performers in bars and nightclubs, and while this was a semi-formal theater setting, YShee assures the audience that they can cheer, dance, scream and shout as much as they want, and actively encourages it.

First up is a burlesque style drag performance innthe capable hands of Rudy Jeevaniee, coming out barefoot with a tassel shawl and skirt they dance elegantly, slowly lip syncing to the words of their song. But since this was an 18+ show, with each spin they did, they remove the outer tassled items to reveal an equally tasseled thong and their glitter covered cheeks. The audience cheer louder with every shimmy and shake.

Next up was Val Qaeda, Val the brown drag queen is a Muslim drag artist from Manchester. Val calls herself the Bollywood Bombshell in a Burkha and dances to traditional Bollywood music before cutting it with viral videos and soundbites behind her.

The audience are in stitches at her dramatic eye roll while doing the stereotypical dance move, screwing in the lightbulb. Val turns the negative and offensive views in the clips around and makes fun of them, while showcasing her own talents and sense of humour.

After the audience had been thoroughly warmed up, YShee Black returns, with her own number. After discussing the important and unforgettable events of the last week; Beyonce announcing her world tour and tickets going on sale, she sings 1+1 by Queen B herself. Her sultry lip sync silences the audience, but her air guitar during the instrumental section still makes people giggle.

Drag and humour isn’t all that is on offer at this showcase, following the first few acts are Lauren Elise and Mel Lee, both pole dancers and Natasha Moonshine, a Hoopstress (possibly a term made up by YShee) who wow the crowd with her hoop skills. Lauren and Mel both stun the audience with their own dramatic solos on the free standing spinning pole, and closed the show with a duet. Natasha does both a burlesque style routine in the first half of the show, and a funny energetic routine after the interval where she spins a pile of hoops up , down and around her entire body!

The first half of the show is electric, fun and fabulous and the second half is even better! YShee returns with a mashup of UK Garage anthems and gun fingers and geys the whole crowd out of their seats raving, even inviting an audience member on stage.

Rudy really ups the anti with their second performance, coming out in a golden lace outfit, revealing a chain bodysuit and pasties, all while dancing across the stage with a large sword and fans!

Val’S next number is a poignant reminder of current events, the room was silent as she mimed the words to Rihanna’s “Lift me up.” Images and videos from the recent devastating earthquakes in Turkey play behind her as she sings, and links to donate aid were shown at the end, to a huge round of applause from the audience.

Proving that drag is powerful and it’s more than just signing and dancing, it sends a powerful and poignant message.

This showcase of talent has everything and proves that performers of colour deserve more places on our stages, in our shows and on our TV and cinema screens.

The Cocoa Butter club is an iconic collective of people and their shows are not to be missed.

Queer Contact continues at Contact until 18th February and tickets can be booked here.


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