Fringe Review: “House of Laureen Presents: Mx. Queerdo MTL” – a drag pageant in a class of its own

2019 MONTREAL FRINGE FESTIVAL COVERAGE

Selma Gahd, Uma Gahd, and Anaconda LaSabrosa
(Photo Credit: Mathieu Flageole)

“It’ll be a real drag if you miss the talent in these shows”

Heading into Cleopatra’s is already a good start to a show; there’s cabaret seating, alcoholic bevvies, and air-conditioning. When I got to the top of the stairs I was welcomed to Hell by Rubi Strange, a devilishly tall, lithe beauty in a red dress. This was episode one of House of Laureen Presents: Mx. Queerdo MTL’s drag pageant, and the night’s theme was Living Nightmare. 

I have always enjoyed House of Laureen’s work; they’ve been performing monthly evenings as well as hit full-length Fringe shows for years. The outstanding core group of drag artists includes the lauded Uma Gahd leading the pack, with Selma Gahd and Anaconda LaSabrosa (and Dot Dot Dot who has her own show in the Fringe this year). Their work has heart and a socially conscious message, making it meatier than just make-up and glitter. They all have quite the sense of humour as well.


Uma Gahd
(Photo Credit: Mathieu Flageole)

For Mx. Queerdo MTL, the show is set up as if it’s the filming of a weekly ongoing televised drag pageant, with four contestants each strutting their stuff. And what stuff it is! I’ve seen loads of cabaret, tons of burlesque and a lot of drag, but these artists were in a class of their own. The quality of the work had me transfixed, transporting me to some fab, New York art loft. The numbers oozed creativity (and blood—remember, Living Nightmare theme). 

The top-notch performers are Bambi Dextrous, Demone LaSlave, Matante Alex and Heaven Genderfck. Dressed in a white unitard with nothing but a party hat, I was impressed with Matante Alex’ physicality (and riveted by his hand-like feet). Demone La Slave creatively transformed from a bloodied bride, Bambi Dextrous hilariously spoofed a cooking show, and Heaven Genderfck completely wowed with an extravagant and detailed wigged costume and body paint, by far the most visually exciting and unique act of the night.


Selma Gahd
(Photo Credit: Mathieu Flageole)

Uma, Selma and Anaconda are the judges (okay, really it’s all up to Uma). At the end of the numbers, the contestant with the lowest score gets to spin the wheel and perform a challenge in order to gain back some points and stay in the game. Demone LaSlave had a chance to catch up by presenting another number… while eating crunchy crickets. She had no problem with the extra performance but was retching and all but ready to lose any previous snacks at the thought of munching on crickets. Nothing could persuade her to eat them, not even Anaconda’s boast of buying the chili-lime flavoured ones! In the end, a brave audience member ate the crickets while Demone did her number.

I left Cleopatra’s having seen some very special, creative work. However, I didn’t need the premise of filming a TV show, complete with calls of ‘clearing the set’ and other terminology, along with being mean to the unpaid intern. I was also disappointed that in the spirit of some of these TV shows, Uma Gahd traded in her warm and generous spirit. I wasn’t expecting the bitchiness and it didn’t add anything to the story. The things that were picked on for each act were ridiculously inconsequential; I imagine done expressly to show the pettiness of some contests and certain communities, but it just didn’t work for me.  


(Photo Credit: Mathieu Flageole)

Each show has the same outstanding artists performing a different number according to the theme. Upcoming nights are Campy Kitsch, Filthy Trash, Glitterati and Eat the Rich. The play culminates at the last performance with the crowning of Mx. Queerdo MTL, though for me they are all deserving. The competition is real, along with actual prizes like gift certificates from Sephora (‘cuz drag isn’t cheap, as Uma acknowledged) and a gig in a future House of Laureen show. If you’d like to see another night’s theme, show your ticket stub and pay only $5.00 plus tax. The company really gets the idea of Fringe promotion and are heavily into the ‘socials’, you can even take a photo in front of all the hashtags. 

“WHO IT’S FOR”
Anyone who wants to see something creative and outside the box and isn’t afraid genderbending. For those who know drag and want high quality, and a great intro to those who’ve never experienced it.


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House of Laureen presents Mx. Queerdo MTL
at the 29th St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival

Performances: June 6 – 15, 2019
Venue: OFF C – Café Cléopâtre
1230 Saint-Laurent, Montréal, H2X 2S5 
Admission: $5 – 10 | Ages 18+
Box Office:
514.849.FEST (3378)
boxoffice@montrealfringe.ca 
www.montrealfringe.ca

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Janis Kirshner

Fringe Reviewer at Montreal Theatre Hub
The wearer of many hats, Janis is a respected indie theatre and literary publicist. She was also co-founder of TITTERS (a female sketch comedy duo) and has co-written and performed (with Laura Mitchell) numerous hit shows at a number of Fringe Festivals including Montreal, Halifax and Seattle, as well as the Vancouver Int’l Comedy Festival, theatres and comedy clubs. Janis spent years on the radio as a traffic reporter, entertainment reviewer and host of open-line talk shows, often covering topics she knew nothing about. She continues to act when she gets the chance.
Janis Kirshner

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