Dressed a silk blue kimono, a shimmering pink dress and seven-inch heels, the drag queen emerges from the darkness. Topped with a blonde wig, her make up expertly done, what follows in this incredible one man show is exhilarating and not easy to describe.
Adapted, written and performed by actor Tom Stuart, and directed by Nick Bagnall, I Am Not What I Used To Be is based on the bestselling autobiography by Josh Kilmer-Purcell. By day Josh works at a New York ad agency, a barely functioning alcoholic whose life is defined by his drag alter ego Aqua (or Aquadisiac to give her full name, but good luck saying that after two or three drinks, “or ten”).
Aqua is a perpetually drunk drag queen who self-medicates her way through life. She is an addict with an unhealthy relationship with New York City and an even unhealthier relationship with her new boyfriend Jack. Initially mistaking him for a doctor, Aqua soon realises Jack is a high-class hooker whose penthouse apartment doubles as a bolthole for drug-fuelled orgies.
Aqua’s relationship with Jack is deeply broken albeit genuinely touching. The play opens with Aqua waking to find Jack standing at the balcony window. He has a knife in his hand and he is ready to jump. He explains that he planned to murder her before jumping to his death. The way in which the tone of the story flits from darkly comic to the tragically serious with barely a moment’s pause is a defining trait of I Am Not Myself These Days.
Full credit goes to actor Tom Stuart, who brings Aqua’s story to life with expert craft. The resulting 120 minutes are indescribably wonderful. From falling through the k-hole to having the British CEO of an investment bank bite her ankles ankles, to being roughed up by a man she genuinely loves, I Am Not Myself These Days is brutal, exhilarating, and exhausting. Stuart’s tour de force performance is emotionally draining in the best possible way.
The MAC may seem like an unlikely fit for a one man show about a vodka-fuelled drag queen whose boyfriend is a crack dealing hooker, but I Am Not Myself These Days is destined to become a cult hit. It is an extraordinary, adrenaline-fuelled glimpse into a rarely explored life It is destined to be performed from now until the eventual heat death of the universe, and we couldn’t be happier about that. Do not miss this play.
I Am Not What I Used To Be is at the MAC on Friday February 26 before continuing its UK tour. Click www.fueltheatre.com for more info.
Words - Kieran Clarke