Ahead of her brand new stage show ‘If These Wigs Could Talk’, we caught up with the Queen of Ireland, Panti Bliss to find out what makes this show so “subtle”.
Can you tell us a bit about your new show, If These Wigs Could Talk?
It’s about being an ageing drag queen in the world today – a subject I obviously know nothing about! So I had to do in-depth research interviews with Dolly Grip and Shirley Temple-Bar. But it’s also about refinding your purpose in life, which in my case is telling bigots to go fuck themselves. Why break a habit of a lifetime?
Your last show High Heels in Low Places came in the wake of ‘Pantigate’, the Noble Call, and the marriage referendum which were pretty seismic events. Was it difficult finding inspiration for the new show?
Yes! Particularly because I fell into a kind of gin-induced malaise during the pandemic. My whole life had just suddenly been switched off – no gigs, no Pantibar – and I had a sort of existential mid-life crisis lying on the sofa annoying my fella who worked from home through the whole thing. It took me a while to get my groove back, but luckily for fans of high culture (and the drag-starved patrons of the Abbey Theatre’s Peacock stage), I managed to.
Did the pandemic inform If These Wigs Could Talk and if so, how?
Only in that it sparked my mid-life crisis and the show came out of that. My extremely early on-set mid-life crisis obviously! But I’ve always been an early developer.
What does it mean to feature your new work alongside the fabulous Tara Flynn?
Tara and I have been friends for quite a while, and we’ve both been working with THISISPOPBABY (who are producing and directing both shows) for years, so it feels very natural to be performance neighbours.
And although we wrote and developed our shows separately, there turned out to be some themes in common between them. Spooky! And she’s good craic to share backstage with.
After a five-year hiatus, are you looking forward to returning to the theatre and is it a very different experience from performing your Saturday night shows in the bar?
Oh yes, very! I’m too old now to be throwing myself around the stage in the bar in the wee hours, so I pulled back from that a few years ago.
But the whole reason I first started doing my theatre shows back in 2007 was because – although I absolutely loved it! – bar and club performance is limited. Everything has to be big and loud in that setting. You need to fight for the audience’s attention amid all the distractions.
But in the theatre, you have much more control, and not everything has to be done with broad brushstrokes. It allows for more subtlety, and I think people always say that about me – “That Panti Bliss is so subtle!” That’s what they say, right???
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Panti Bliss premieres her latest play ‘If These Wigs Could Talk’ (staged as a double bill with Tara Flynn’s new play ‘Haunted’) at the Abbey Theatre on the Peacock stage from November 11 to December 3, 2022. To book tickets, click here.
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