BFI Flare: Dressed as a Girl

Directed by Colin Rothbart
Starring Jonny Woo, John Sizzle, Holestar, Scottee, Amber, Pia and Ma Butcher
Screening at BFI Flare on March 25th, 2015

by Joanna Orland

The East London drag scene is notorious for its fabulosity.  The modern day stars of the scene, including head honcho Jonny Woo, gloriously twisted performance artist Scottee, self-proclaimed tranny with a fanny Holestar, and their crew have made the scene what it is, and anyone living in East London certainly knows who they are.  Finally, there is a documentary about the past six years of their lives, allowing the audience to get to know each as their own unique character and examining not only their backgrounds, but the scene on the whole.

Dressed as a Girl uses self-proclaimed “ringmaster” of the scene Jonny Woo as the main narrative focus and predominant voice of the film.  And rightfully so as Woo’s presence in the East London scene is a key factor in its breakthrough success.  The drag / cabaret / performance artist has often featured in Time Out Magazine as “Pick of the Week” and brought to the mainstream a scene that was previously overlooked and underground.  The documentary explores the darker side of Woo’s life, as well as the lives of his drag comrades.  It transforms what perhaps some people may see as shallow gluttonous entertainers into the human beings that they actually are, revealing their troubled pasts and presents, hopes and fears, trials and tribulations.

What starts off as shallow nostalgia for the East London scene evolves into a moving character piece, helping us East Londoners get insight into these colourful characters we’ve been seeing about town for years.  Now I know the path that Jonny Woo and John Sizzle took to open up their very successful Haggerston “super-pub, performance venue and late night disco haunt that will become the new epicentre of East London’s thriving alternative scene” The Glory which I keep referring to as The Glory Hole, not because I’m a pervert, but because I keep mixing it up with my favourite donut shop.

Dressed as a Girl is a record of THE East London scene of recent times, coupled with a character piece about vulnerable people putting up a helluva front.  It is a triumph.

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