Britannia Panopticon Music Hall, Glasgow



ON she comes: 7ft 2in tall, thin as an exclamation mark, and naughty as hell. She comes down into the audience - the best drag queens always come down into the audience - and does something unspeakable with a gentleman's spectacles. Then she lip-syncs to Eartha Kitt (who else?) "Do you see us dining on caviar and pheasant? I'll be having pheasant while you're dining with the peasants." The drag queen's name is Harlow, and she's one of the best.

But the greatest joy of Dragopticon, the regular drag revue at the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall, is that the whole range of drag is on show: there are boys as girls, girls as boys, and girls as girls. Harlow does the full-on Bitch Queen (and does it beautifully) but there's also a drag king Eli Buck, who does a charismatic, swaggering 20s spiv, a comedy singer Anna Secret Poet, and a queen who does a whole routine inspired by Star Wars and has the great tradition of punny drag names down to a T - her name is Dharma Geddon.

The show has also found a perfect venue in the Panopticon, even if the sound system still needs a bit of adjusting to give it the full impact. The Panopticon, as some people still don't know, is Glasgow's oldest music hall and it's cracked, worn, dark and wonderful. And as it waits for a transformation, what better show could there be than one in which girls and boys transform into boys and girls?

Dragopticon is also successful because it's prepared to do two things: celebrate some of the traditions of drag while up-ending some of the cliches, thereby giving the genre a future. Yes, some of Dragopticon is a Bitchathon - and there's nothing wrong with that - but in places it's melancholic and touching too. And with a regular monthly slot at the Panopticon, it's worthy of what the hostess Alana Duvey says all drag queens crave deep down: lots and lots of attention.