Courtney Act returns to Oz to headline Mardi Gras

Australian drag sensation Courtney Act headlines the 2014 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras with her new cabaret Boys Like Me.
Courtney Act returns to Oz to headline Mardi Gras

Image: Courtney Act in Boys Like Me

When Australian drag sensation Courtney Act performs cabaret show Boys Like Me at the 2014 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, she hopes to connect with the unifying festival theme of a kaleidoscope, which has also fuelled much of the overall direction of this year’s program.

‘My show is a kaleidoscope of my sex life,’ she said. ‘I tell stories that go from losing my virginity to a girl, to straight twins, gay romances, I literally cover the whole kaleidoscope of gender and sexuality in my show.’

Hot on the heels of sold out seasons in New York and Los Angeles, Act’s alter ego Shane Jenek said Boys Like Me opens at the Sydney Theatre on February 25 for one night only. ‘The Sydney Theatre is possibly the most legitimate venue I’ve ever done a solo show in,’ said Jenek.

The two hour show, which is a presented as combination of personal stories and songs, includes a live band and dazzling new costumes. Jenek hopes to share his unique sense of the world from spending time on the gender divide. 

‘I’ve always found that I’ve had an interesting perspective living life sometimes as a girl and sometimes as a boy’, he said. 

‘I’ve found it interesting seeing how people react to me, when I’m dressed as Shane or dressed as Courtney. I thought this would be a great psychological study, or a book, or perhaps just a small pamphlet.’

‘Then I just decided that I was going to put it all into a show. I took some of my favourite, most sordid and fascinating stories from my sex life and decided to air my dirty laundry in a cabaret.’ 

‘My parents, family and friends will be all there, all of the people I have grown up with in Sydney will be there, and I’m just looking forward to being on stage, doing what I do best and what I love the most in front of all those people.’

Just a few hours before Boys Like Me unfolds on stage in Sydney, Jenek will be welcomed into lounge rooms across America on the sixth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. ‘It’s this big serendipitous occasion’, said Jenek. ‘As I’m about to walk on stage in in Sydney, I’ll be thrust into the lounge rooms of the American audience which is lavish and exciting.’

Jenek is excited to be a part of an evolving gay culture, which he feels has been encouraged through television shows such as RuPaul, and the ongoing influence of events such as the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

‘Coming home to Australia is always such a nice feeling. One thing I have noticed and feel about the gay community, and the community at large, it’s not so segregationist anymore,' he said.

‘There’s a real sort of palpable coming together – it’s not just gay and straight, there’s a growing alliance which is so important. In the past, events like Mardi Gras have suffered because gay audiences weren’t so dependent on going to exclusively gay parties. Now I feel like there’s a celebration of gay - and not just among the gay community.’

‘There’s something kind of cool about all of the Mardi Gras events. It might be ridiculous to say, but if I were straight I’d want to go to the Mardi Gras and go to all the parties, it’s just so much fun, it's a three week celebration of fabulousness.’

The 2014 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is world’s biggest, and most spectacular, celebration of LGBTQI pride and diversity, and features a program of free and ticketed events including parties, world class cabaret, theatre and musical performances; premiere film screenings; all-inclusive community, social and youth events, interactive panel discussions, and art exhibitions.

Boys Like Me forms the centrepiece to a diverse, three-week all-inclusive festival program, which Jenek hopes will appeal to audiences from all walks of life.

‘I like being in a world now where I have friends who are gay, straight, man, woman and everything in between, but those strong identities aren’t as important, but still part of who we are,’ he said.   

‘In the media everything seems to be portrayed in a very polarised way. It’s black and white, or male and female, gay or straight. My understanding is that it’s all of the colours of rainbow, all the fractals of the kaleidoscope that make up life.’

‘When you look through a kaleidoscope you see the different fractals of one image, you see all these facets that come together to create one beautiful vision, and that is great symbology for life at large, and especially for Mardi Gras. It’s all encompassing and shows the facets on both sides of one picture as a holistic image.’

‘When something’s either one of the other, it’s really limiting, I am hopeful when people hear the stories and the vivacity of the stories, leaving things in two boxes, and we can expand our perception of things and understand that the world is not just binary.’ 

Courtney Act’s Boys Like Me is presented by Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in partnership with Sydney Theatre Company for one night only on Tuesday February 25. 

For more information visit the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras website.

Troy Nankervis

Thursday 23 January, 2014

About the author

Troy Nankervis is an ArtsHub journalist from Melbourne. Follow him on twitter @troynankervis