Kemah Bob tells DIVA all about this new play sashaying into the Garrick Theatre just in time for Christmas
BY SOPHIE GRIFFITHS
When I jump on my call with Kemah Bob I’m surprised to hear her say, straight off the bat, “Honestly I’m having one of the best years of my life. I’m thriving and there’s nothing that can be done about that.”
You just have to take one look at Kemah’s year so far to see that it is so undeniably true. An appearance on Jonathan Ross’ Comedy Club, a new panel show for Radio 4, and a role in a superstar drag play alongside Courtney Act and Monét X Change to top off the year doesn’t sound all that bad, does it?
This brand-new comedy is an historic West End first bringing together a full cast of leading drag performers, in a hilarious murder mystery like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
Set in the early 90s, Death Drop sees the queens attend a party to die for (literally) on Tuck Island. As each guest reveals the sordid secrets of their suspicious past, they start disappearing one-by-one – leading to a bone-chilling, gut-busting conclusion as the culprit is revealed.
We chatted to Kemah Bob, who stars in the show as Phil Maker, to find out more about this drag extravaganza!
DIVA: Tell us a bit about your new project Death Drop.
KEMAH BOB: I’m really excited about it. What you can expect, anytime that a bunch of drag artists get together, is big personalities, right? A collision of style, attitude, presence, flavour. I think this show is definitely doing that. It’s a great cast that I’m so excited to work with.
It’s about a dinner party that becomes fatal. We’re all invited to a mansion for a party under somewhat false pretences and then we just start to drop like flies. You begin to wonder to yourself: “Who did do it?” You can expect fun costumes, you can expect songs here and there. You can expect a strip tease. I won’t say from who but it might be me.
We’re one question in and you’ve already sold the show. What’s your character like?
My character’s name is Phil Maker. He is a sleazy Hollywood producer. He’s a gross man. On the streets, my drag king name is Lil Test Ease and he’s known for being a right wing rapper and a “men’s rights activist.” My favourite kind of drag as far as kinging goes is taking the piss out of masculinity and how gross some men can be.
What’s crazy to me is that looking at Phil Maker and his blatant misogyny, I feel like he could be the uncle that my king Lil Test Ease learned everything from.
How did you get involved in Death Drop?
I’ve had a relationship with the production company Tuck Shop shop for a while. Last year, they put on an all drag pantomime version of Cinderella. I was the lone king in it. What’s exciting about this show is I was invited to join by Holly Stars who wrote it and it means I get to work with them again.
Having an excuse to put on a beard for several weeks is super delightful. I’m also excited to be joined by LoUis CYfer. I haven’t known them for long at all but we already have a great connection and camaraderie. We know that the mainstream is in love with drag queens, but us kings will not be overlooked.
Have you met the drag legends Courtney Act and Monét X Change yet?
I just met Courtney and for someone so big and established, her vibe is so warm. I was a bit nervous about meeting her and I’ll be nervous to meet Monét too. I know it’s gonna be a great time. It’s mind-blowing to me because I’ve watched Drag Race since season one, I even got my mom into it, as you do!
How long have you been drag kinging?
A couple of years. One thing that I really enjoy about it is that some qualities of my drag king have informed my own stand-up, like how loose and playful he is.
I initially got into it because a king called Zayn Phallic was running a night called KOC’s, which stands for King’s of Colour Collective. They invited me to do an open spot one night and it was so great. I knew I wanted to make my character an asshole and it ended up being an exploration of the misogyny of hip-hop. I adore hip-hop but it doesn’t always adore me as a woman. I started off doing covers of songs that I found ridiculous which led to me writing my own songs that are even more ridiculous.
How does drag kinging and comedy link up for you?
What feels different about it in the best way, and is what I and probably a lot of the other cast members need in this time, is the collaborative element of the show. The script is really funny and I think combining theatricality with ridiculousness is a real sweet spot. I’m glad to bring the skills that I have from stand up and the bit of acting that I’ve done previously into this. Stand up is a kind of one woman sport for me, so being able to work with a team of people is something I’ve definitely been looking forward to. Especially as I’m living alone!
Are there any drag artists you think DIVA readers should check out?
Pecs Drag Kings always put on a phenomenal show. My good friend Jodie, also known as John Travulva is a part of Pecs and I massively respect the work that they do. Romeo De La Cruz is someone that I really recommend, and their partner Jada Love. They do really sexy performances together. It’s so great and lovely to see a genderqueer person in a nice loving relationship. Also, on top of that, you get sick performances from both of them.
There’s so many people doing great work on the scene that aren’t in the mainstream. So far, RuPaul’s drag race doesn’t have a space for kings so raising their profiles and spreading awareness is a bit tougher.
We’re putting Death Drop tickets at the top of our Queermas list – grab your tickets here! (Death Drop opens at the Garrick Theatre London on 4 December 2020 for a socially distanced run that plays until 17 January 2021.)