01 July 2017
Guy Woolf is an actor and a drag queen called Elektra Cute. Here, he discusses modern variety, the Spice Girls and what he feels is the greatest challenge facing the arts
How did you first enter the world of drag?
Some friends of mine at uni started the group. We were very close and they knew I was a singer. At that time I knew nothing about drag. The guy who started the group, which is called Denim, said it was the most complete type of performance because you craft your character and then they stay with you forever. It’s like being in the longest soap. It’s not like doing a four-week run, it’s something that stays with you and I thought that was really exciting. When I perform I love being something completely different. I find that more exciting than a boring, naturalistic performance. Don’t get me wrong, it’s exhausting and it takes three hours getting ready pretty much for anything, but I haven’t really looked back.
How did you go about creating the look and character of Elektra Cute?
The first few years were sort of terrible. It was like: put on lipstick and some eyeliner and Hey presto! You’re a drag queen – please! It was so basic, and we’ve all improved. I’ve always had a kind of rock voice and they wanted a sort of punk rock chick. That was how the idea started for Elektra, and then it developed - she kind of became a sort of political warrior, a political activist who’s actually quite monied, quite privileged. She’s the treasurer of a Marxist society, but she holds the meetings in her dad’s basement swimming pool in Knightsbridge. We just thought it was quite fun to critique that sort of really well-meaning, liberal sort of indulgence. She likes to pose as someone who’s really together when actually she’s just figuring everything out. So her look as a result is confused, it’s a bit of this and a bit of that.
What do you think is the future of drag?
I’d like to see it become normalised more, I think RuPaul has helped a lot with that. I hope we’re the future of drag! We want to be like the Spice Girls, we want it to be really pop and really mainstream to the extent that it’s more accessible and that it inspires other young artists to do it.
How would you define modern variety?
It’s become a bit more politically engaged, certainly from the angle we come at it.
I think that’s largely true when you look at some of the great variety acts around such as Scottee, La Gateux Chocolat, Dicky Bow and Victoria Sin. They are so politically infused.
Why do you consider a lack of socioeconomic diversity the greatest challenge facing the arts?
The result of a lack of socioeconomic diversity is more homogenised programming, which I find dull because it is privileged people programming work starring privileged people for privileged people to watch. It doesn’t accurately reflect how diverse and cosmopolitan the UK is, particularly London. I’ve lived in the capital my whole life and everywhere you go there is great diversity and that should be reflected properly in art. It’s terrifying the lack of representation there is in the arts and it just shouldn’t follow those rules. I think venues, casting directors, directors, etc, need to take more responsibility for that, to confront it. I think every level of the industry from drama school, to agents, to producers – every single aspect of it should be more encouraging towards people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.