Platteland in Centurion isn’t the first place I thought I’d go to see a drag show, but in hindsight, it’s a perfect venue.
Some of Platteland’s many features include a large double volume interior with a stage area, two bars and more than enough outdoor seating to make cigarette smoking easy and comfortable (even if you have to ash in a bin). Even though my assumption before was that it’s mainly marketed as a sokkie jol, I think it’s pretty good for any kind of live music event.
In fact, I actually never thought I’d ever see anyone called Alaska 5000 in Centurion at all, but when it comes to the southern part of Tshwane, it turns out there’s a lot I don’t know.
Growing up I always thought Centurion, or Verwoedburgstad as it was then known, was a bit of a strange place. One of my only memories of going there was with family friends to watch a Disney movie, because it was only place where it was still showing. I also remember some rumours about there being Satanists in the area that killed cats (who knows where that came from).
So until Saturday, apart from a recent trip to find mushrooms at Bishop Bird Nature Reserve, my experience of Centurion has been pretty limited.
In addition to that, having gone to a drag show at the Platteland live venue, and realised that it is really for everyone, I now have quite a different opinion of it. Here are just some of the reasons why.
Reasons Why Drag at Platteland is for Everyone
1. Drag isn’t just about sexuality
Okay sure, it’s a lot about sexuality, but one of the things I realised, while watching the welcoming host walk around in a sliver corset, is that it’s more about self-expression, whatever that looks like for you.
For a lot of the people standing around me on Saturday night, that means stilettos, tight clothing, exaggerated makeup and a lot of sassiness.
It’s a lot, it’s overboard, and maybe a bit garish, but it’s awesome. And for the couple that we met outside while smoking menthol cigarettes with the clicky exploding ball thing in them, it’s important. So important that they took the time to hand-sew their own costumes, with feathers.
What’s more, just as we entered the venue, I felt the overwhelming need to compliment people, and a got quite a few compliments back. I think it did help that I was with one of the evening’s best dressed though (my friend Jess’ alter ego- a sexy one-eyed Russian Bond villain).
2. Drag does what not everyone can do
This isn’t the kind of conversation that you’ll have with everyone, but I’m not afraid to talk about it here.
Everyone wants to be seen and appreciated, and maybe for different things.
Maybe it’s having a ridiculously shapely ass that is way beyond the reach of most human beings, regardless of sex/gender. Or maybe it’s for having been made fun of for years and having the courage to step through a paper curtain with the word “moffie” on it and walk along the Platteland stage catwalk with pride, to the roaring cheers of a crowd.
Whatever it is, I realised that I’ve felt so much fear of being seen myself, or being seen for things that people saw as “bad”. Maybe being a little bit too forward, too drunk, too weird, slutty, or even just a little bit crazy.
Which is why when I was cheering for the variety of drag queens coming onto the stage, while being very distracted by the whirly, trance-y visuals on the two side screens, I was also cheering for all the hidden, shadowy aspects of myself.
3. Drag will surprise you
I totally get that this kind of experience might not be for everyone. But I’d invite you to just go and see one show before you decide. Because maybe it isn’t what you think it will be.
And I can relate. My first experience of drag was going to see my brother Ryan’s friend Shaun perform at a small theatre in Cape Town a long time ago. It was a lot more cabaret than bright-lights-stage-catwalk, but I remember being thoroughly impressed, especially by Shaun’s incredible calves (which helped me understand why ad executives apparently chose to use men’s legs in shaving commercials instead of women’s).
That might have been the only experience I had of professional drag. Demure and charming, with lots of crushed velvet curtains and a comfortable theatre seat.
It was fantastic but it’s not at all what went down on Saturday at Platteland. By some standards it was probably quite tame. However, we are still in Pretoria after all, and some more interesting things probably happen at etc. around the corner from the venue.
4. Drag will challenge you to be bold
Going to Platteland on Saturday night wasn’t difficult, all I had to do was dress up a bit and make my way to my friend’s Chris and Jess’ house over the spruit for gin and tonic pre-gaming, and then get into an Uber.
(That is, once I was actually able to buy a ticket off of Howler, which bizarrely only lets you buy one ticket. Ever. I’d like to understand why they do that!)
Either way, physically getting there wasn’t a problem, it was exciting. It’s not often that an Uber takes me out on the highway, or that I get to wear the weird green crushed velvet leprechaun/Spice Girl outfit that I bought at a second hand store in Cape Town a while ago.
But when I arrived at Platteland and had the distinct realisation that there would be very few straight men there, I stopped to think. And my ego definitely experienced some kind of reaction. But then I realised it would actually be kind of a relief to not even think about talking to men (not that everyone necessarily would have wanted to hit on me in my leprechaun suit).
All in all it felt like for once I could just focus on dancing, which I did. And after numerous trips to the bar I even had the urge to climb up onto the empty catwalk stage and dance a bit by myself, even if the bouncer on the ground next to me was not impressed. At all.
5. Drag will open up your eyes to what’s going on everywhere
Although seeing Alaska 5000 was a novelty, and something new and exciting, to me, judging from her show (and all the R100 bills everyone was giving her), people all over the world are super into drag.
RuPaul’s Drag Race is massive (and has been for a while). Also, drag queens are celebrities. So while it might not be anything new to anyone than me, whose first real taste of gender bending only really happened when I first saw transvestite prostitutes and experienced a whole lot of gay culture at the Sao Paulo gay parade in 2013, it’s definitely something that’s becoming more and more mainstream.
It might feel uncomfortable for some people to even think about everything that comes with it. However, in my opinion, it’s a whole different level of theatre and entertainment, that amazingly, even the once conservative town of Verwoedburgstad is now starting to embrace.
So despite what you think, or fear, I really do think that drag is for everyone, and I can definitely recommend going to check it out, especially if you have friends, like I do, who like to make a night of it.
Have you ever been to a drag show? Or are you already a huge fan of performers like Alaska 5000? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!