HEAVEN & HELL: Beverly Kills’ Latest Production Upheld What We Love About Drag, And Gave Us Some New Elements To Worship

Beverly Kills has recrowned herself. From RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under Season 2’s lip-sync assassin, she transformed into a lip-sync devil in her debut one-woman show: HEAVEN & HELL on Saturday 6 May 2023. From her entrance in a glowing white goddess-like gown to stripping off to reveal her just as godly, sparkling gold undergarments, the top five RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under contestant did not wait around to serve us the spectacular. The Anywhere Festival production, held in the unorthodox location of Christ Church Milton, had high expectations from the first number.

Beverly undoubtedly lived up to these expectations, showcasing her signature burlesque and sparkly style of drag, with new elements usually kept backstage in the four years she’s been performing. That is, the vulnerable side of the queen, layered in between comedy acts, lip-syncing, dancing, audience interaction, and games throughout the show. Beverly confidently reminded us that she is a multifaceted deity of the Brisbane drag scene.

Before the show, the audience sat waiting under dimmed lights, listening to classic LGBTQIA+ nightclub bangers to get us hyped (think Britney, Dua Lipa, and so on). HEAVEN & HELL then graced us with something never seen before in Brisbane drag; it only started eight minutes late! We were first dazzled by beautiful local queen, Miss Ann Xiety’s opening. For the rest of the night, Beverly consistently kept us on our toes.

Her first number introduced us to the show’s overarching theme of religious trauma (and everything that comes with it). Beverley laid bare her vulnerable side straight away, sharing experiences of growing up attending a Christian school and attempting to remain “pure” in the church’s eyes despite being homosexual. She explored her experiences with self-discovery, religious devotion and rebellion. The Brisbane darling dished out hilarious memorabilia for the night in the form of iconic one-liners. I will now religiously be calling Jesus “Sky Daddy” and quoting “trauma shared is trauma halved.”

Beverly delivered the raw, ugly parts of her life story with traditional drag elegance. That is, by making me continuously check my tickets, ensuring I hadn’t accidentally gone to a strip show rather than a drag show. From baptising us with “vodka”, to asking for audience members’ permission before inviting them onstage, she made us feel like we were in a safe space from the beginning.

From left to right: Miss Ann Xiety, student reviewer Madeleine Litchfield, Beverly Kills

Her second number, beginning as a lip-sync performance to Trisha Paytas’ “I Love You Jesus”, transcended into a comedy routine, games with lucky audience members, and of course, jaw-drop-worthy dancing. I wanted to scream, gasp, dance and sing along with her… Which I couldn’t help myself from doing a few times, resulting in judging looks from the middle-aged ladies in front of me.

Throughout the entire show, her impeccable stage presence made us feel like we were friends discussing our religious trauma slightly too loud at brunch in a family-friendly café, rather than watching a production. Along with this, her jokes felt very natural, almost as if they were improv. But as we know from her struggles in putting together the drag brunch comedy show without proper preparation in RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under, Episode 2, this Scorpio queen thrives off organisation and planning every minute detail. Challenging her undesirable critiques from that episode, she executed flawless lip-syncing and dancing, with a meticulous balance between musical numbers, monologuing and audience interaction.

Minor technical elements of the show could have received more attention to detail. The symbolic use of blue and red lighting as a juxtaposition of heaven and hell or good and bad felt somewhat cliché. There were also times when there were attempts to create a glitching effect between scenes, which ended up feeling like a technical error rather than an intentional choice.

The intimate atmosphere and audience connection could have been enhanced if the fluorescent lighting travelled beyond the stage and throughout the entire church. This also would have created a nightclub feel to match the music choices. I also would have liked to see some speakers placed at the back to create surround sound to make us feel more immersed in the performance. The location may have been the culprit behind these issues. However, considering Anywhere Festival is known for its peculiar venues often heightening the themes and meanings of productions, I feel like the church could have been better leveraged to enhance the creative aims of HEAVEN & HELL.

It was also disappointing to see that Beverly did not make rounds through the entire audience while addressing us, and stuck to the front few rows. She made up for it in the end, however, offering free photos and chats with audience members.

Makeup was on point, the dark eyeshadow and bold lips creating a glamourous satanic look as well as punctiliously waving to her drag style. Although, some ensembles left me longing for the renowned “Beverly couture”. Following the rebellious theme, the artist cleverly went for a scandalous look. Some outfits also lacked flair for me, however.

Her final look was an unintentional homage to (a Beverly reference made during the show) “drunk, passed out [girls] in the middle of Anne Street” with her back zipper being completely undone. I can’t lie, the yellow latex mini dress closely resembling a Catholic schoolgirl’s uniform was a scrumptious choice, yet the undone zipper felt unnecessarily unkempt and made me lose focus on the rest of the final number. HEAVEN & HELL’s energy certainly sets it apart from other Brisbane drag I have seen this year. From the get-go, it had that magical moment that is usually felt mid-show. This young yet capable artist and performer maintained steady intensity and laughs throughout its entirety. It never had any low moments, and I wished the hour didn’t pass by so fast. Despite a few technical and design faults, this production was heavenly.

Madeleine Litchfield is a second-year creative writing student, completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts at QUT. Their work often explores deeper and suppressed parts of identity and the human condition from metaphorical and personal interpretations. In her waking life Madeleine enjoys making awkward little jokes, and unfortunately occasionally includes them in her writing. You can find more of their work in ScratchThat Magazine, Frocket Zine and Pressenza.

Madeleine Litchfield
Madeleine Litchfield
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