Cork’s got a new wave of young drag queens

Cork is home to an underground scene of up and coming drag queens, says MIA POLAND, who catches up with Krystal Queer to find out more
Cork’s got a new wave of young drag queens

Liam Bee, Kia Koke, Lucinna Schynning, Ashima Kent, Polly Glamorous, Krystal Queer

SIMMERING just under the surface of Cork’s entertainment scene, a new wave of drag is brewing.

As drag is pulled from the sidelines to the main stage, the LGBTQ entertainment scene is gradually becoming an integral part of Cork city’s nightlife.

As clubs have returned to full capacity, you may be looking to explore the world of local drag queens away from your screens. Lockdown is over, it’s time to stop binge watching RuPaul’s Drag Race and get out and support your local drag queens.

When it comes to drag, Cork city has more tricks up its sleeve than you may have thought. Cork drag icons such as Danny La Rue have influenced and shaped the stage for local drag performers. Following in his iconic footsteps are many talented young drag queens, paving the way in an entertainment industry reimagined after two years of lockdowns.

Cork is home to an underground scene of up and coming, young drag queens looking to make their mark in the LGBTQ community and beyond. 

Krystal Queer, a local Cork drag queen, would say that Cork has a unique and alternative spin when it comes to its eclectic group of drag queens.

Krystal Queer Picture: Avril O'Sullivan
Krystal Queer Picture: Avril O'Sullivan

Taking inspiration from the New York club kid scene of the ’80s and ’90s, Krystal Queer and other Cork drag queens have been taking to the stage to dance, lip-sync and death-drop in a new show that Krystal has proudly named ‘D’Beours’, which recently debuted in Conway’s Yard. A name that for Corkonians encapsulated the perfect mix between Cork slang and all things drag, all the while leaving the rest of the country a bit confused.

Hosted by Lucina Schynning, D’Beours brings a breath of queer air to Oliver Plunkett Street.

Krystal Queer said: “D’Beours is very clubby, you walk in and feel like a celebrity as it’s a venue that suddenly has a queer gathering.”

Each month, these new shows bring in special guests from either around Cork or Dublin to come and perform, including Niall Casey from RTÉ’s first season of Glow Up and Letycha Le’Synn.

“Niall is an artistic visionary who made their drag debut under the guise of ‘Spyra’ at the latest Krystal and The Queers. This queen’s performance was as dazzling as her silver sequin dress. Cork drag legend Letycha Le’Synn also made a special guest appearance and annihilated the runway,” said Krystal.

“We basically just have a big ol’ party. We have lip-sync battles, audience participation, we give out free drinks and free tickets for the next show.

“Audience participation is a vital and thrilling element of our show. Our stunning crowd is always encouraged to scream, shout and be as wild and flamboyant as they please - as long as they don’t steal the thunder of our Queens.

Top left: Kia Koke Bottom left: Liam Bee Top centre: Hollywood Bottom Centre: Niall Casey/Spyra Top right: Letycha Le'Synn Bottom Right: Ashima Kent
Top left: Kia Koke Bottom left: Liam Bee Top centre: Hollywood Bottom Centre: Niall Casey/Spyra Top right: Letycha Le'Synn Bottom Right: Ashima Kent

“Audience members are roped into the chaos through our lip-sync battles - dramatic camp smackdowns where the winner takes home free tickets to the next show.

“Luci is on the mic, she makes jokes and it’s just fabulous,” said Krystal, who started doing drag with Lucina Schyinning three years ago - they have been performing and been best friends ever since. 

"The pair realised there was something missing for them when it came to how they wanted to share their drag with Cork. 

"With a mix of comedy, glamour and club kid styles, they decided to create their very own show. And so D’Beours was born.

Krystal said: “These club-nights view drag through an alternative lens - integrating a young and ambitious ethos to the ever-growing Cork drag scene.

“Due to our fierce underground style and fresh pool of talent, these nights are almost a modern Irish take on New York’s Club Kid era. We deliver chaos and flair that every queer Corkonian deserves to experience.

“Krystal Queer is really chaotic, always trying to crack a joke, really comedic. I base a lot of my drag off of cartoons and really wacky stuff.”

Krystal herself has a unique performance that shouldn’t be missed. She incorporates huge amounts of comedy into her performances, appearing as characters such as Ronald McDonald, Meg Griffin and Marge Simpson.

“(Krystal) is a cluster of weird, wacky things. You never know what you’re going to get with her,” Krystal said.

Drag queens will often lip sync and dance to music while performing, whereas other queens will edit audio themselves to create a story or a scene to entertain their audience. This is how Krystal creates her comedic performances when she’s on stage. Between creating a look with an outfit down to the shoes, painting make-up for the back row, and editing audio tracks for performances, preparations can be very time-consuming.

“Every drag queen performs better in the darkness,” describes Krystal.

And with the potential for legislative changes to opening-hours licences on the horizon, the Irish drag scene is expected to thrive.

“Drag brings such a buzz and an adrenaline rush, you could stay up all night with it. I think (the 6am closing time) would be really good because if you look at the drag scene, it’s thriving over in the UK or in the U.S. Most of their drag shows don’t start until 2am, when that’s the time our clubs close. I think it will be a big game changer. Nightlife will be amazing, the new closing time will be really revitalising,” Krystal argues.

Yet it might be too late for the Irish drag scene to catch up with the continental competition, as many Irish drag queens have moved further afield in order to pursue drag full time. Angelica Starr, as seen on Virgin Media’s now cancelled series The Big Deal, has recently moved to London to explore the drag scene. Krystal Queer has also mentioned thoughts of moving to London, to pursue a full time drag career along with other Cork queens.

“In comparison to Irish drag, London will be life-changing. Many venues treat us Queens extremely poorly - whether that be dire pay, no security, or the welcome mat for homophobia sitting on the doorstep. We are blessed with our new residency in Conway’s Yard & Angel’s Club.”

Cork’s newest drag shows attract beours and feens, and everything between, from both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ spaces alike. Not exclusively being a typical LGBTQ space, people who would otherwise not usually see a drag show are getting to witness a whole new world of glamour and excitement.

“Queer events in non-LGBT venues normalise our existence and offer a hand to individuals who may be closeted. 

"It wasn’t until I began to glue wigs to my head that I realised how rampant homophobia actually is. Homophobia in Ireland is casual. Nonchalant.

“Pride will always be accessible to feminine gay boys like myself - but not for the closeted boys on the football pitch. These events in non-queer spaces inspire hope for the people who cannot celebrate themselves yet, but one day will.

“If there is anyone out there struggling - come to a show. You might as well take the full plunge - I promise you won’t regret it.”

Left: Liam Bee and Right: Kia Koke Picture: Avril O'Sullivan
Left: Liam Bee and Right: Kia Koke Picture: Avril O'Sullivan

Krystal Queer, alongside Lucina Schyinning, Ashima Kent, Liam Bee, Kia Koke and Polly Glamourous, can all be seen at D’Beours monthly in Conways Yard, whilst Krystal’s own show, Krystal and the Queers, regularly takes place in Angels Club.

This unique collection of drag queens includes campy individuals that are male, female and non-binary, all coming together to put on a spectacular array of performances.

Both shows take place monthly, for more, follow their respective Instagram accounts.

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