Delusional drag queens can be a common sight at Pride, but this year one in particular takes centre stage in TotoToo Theatre’s production of David Blue’s Confessions of a Mad Drag Queen.
Directed by Klaas van Weringh, the first production from the queer theatre company after last year’s cancelled season promises to bring humour, drama and deception to Capital Pride.
The “two-hander” — a play with two actors — stars Barry Daley as Miranda Rights, a homicidal drag queen with delusions of grandeur, and John Collins as a journalist eager to pull a bestselling book out of the murderer.
Blue’s sharp writing is one factor that pulled van Weringh into the director’s chair, he says. The play morphs from a comedy to a psychological drama and ultimately ends as a thriller.
“It will have people on the edge of their seats. It had me sitting on the edge of my seat the first time these two did that scene,” van Weringh says.
Daley and Collins, who is also an established director, are veterans of the stage, and van Weringh says they are perfect for their respective roles.
“I’m very lucky. This would be a very difficult play if you didn’t have two actors who could really carry it off,” he says. “And I’ve got two actors who can really carry it off.”
The production marks the first time Daley has done drag. While it is a challenge, he says, he didn’t hit up Swizzles on a Thursday night to ask for pointers.
“If it’s not in your body before, it’s a challenge to bring a new character into your mind and body,” he says. “It has to come from my theatre background. It’s a different resource.”
TotoToo producer Denis de Laviolette also had some advice for him as a drag virgin, Daley adds.
Not all gay men have the desire to create a drag persona, de Laviolette says, but those who do usually identify with women to some extent on a personal level.
“My discussion with Barry was to find the reason why somebody would be driven to commit a portion of their life to this,” de Laviolette says. “Part of the key to Miranda is to try to discover what would drive Walter [the character’s male name] to become Miranda, and that’s where you find a lot of the secrets behind the character.”
Collins commends his co-star’s embodiment of Miranda, calling his performance “over the top.”
“He gives himself the freedom to do that, which a lot actors won’t do — give themselves the freedom to do what a character needs. That’s where you see stilted performances. You won’t see that from Barry ever. He gives it every time. Acting is reacting. When he is giving me that, I have no choice but to come back with something that at least keeps me on the same stage. It’s really energizing,” he says.
Daley might have the flashier role, but, he says, Collins’s character goes through a complex evolution of his own.
“That’s wonderful for two people to work off each other, especially critical in a two-hander,” Daley says. “The two people need to have a certain amount of confidence in each other.”
“In Act 2 there’s some lovely surprises that reveal the interesting sides of both of these characters,” Collins hints. “[For Pride you’ll see] a drag queen in full flair. Maybe even two.”