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Anna Phylactic brushes out a candyfloss-like pink wig as she speaks, adding in curlers and trimming split ends with simultaneous focus and effortlessness. The ease with which she dedicates herself to the task at hand is one of the reasons she has become one of Manchester’s most celebrated queens, as her diverse CV attests. Equally at home lip-syncing with the Manchester Rubbermen as she is performing serious theatre as part of LGBT History Month, Anna takes her craft seriously, and brings a wealth of experience to every challenge she faces.
In the run up to her star turn in Stephen M. Hornby’s new play, Die Dana, we caught up with her for a natter.
What drew you to being a part of Die Diana?
The writing for sure! The lines really flow off the tongue. Stephen really is very good!
I knew it was a part I’d enjoy playing and it felt natural to me. The words really worked in my mouth. That doesn’t necessarily happen with every play or part you are given. But I had a strong sense of who Die Anna was and how i could bring her to life.
What have you enjoyed most about the process so far?
I think I’ve most enjoyed getting up and treading the boards again. Using my actual voice instead moving my mouth to somebody ele’s! It’s been been fun this year getting back into acting and marrying both my life as a drag artist and my life as an actor.
I had the pleasure of doing Lifes A Drag earlier this year at Contact and now I’m working on this piece!I have to say I’m kind of loving 2016.
What has been the most challenging aspect of getting your character just right?
I don’t know if it’s just right just yet. I think it’s still a work in progress. I think the biggest challenge so far is trying to bring the essence of Diana without just doing an impression of her.
I think a lot of things will naturally evolve once I present the work in front of audience. We only have a few moments in the play where the three Dianas interact so the biggest relationship in the play is actually the one between us – the performers and the audience. There’s no forth wall. There’s an interesting speech I have where I start telling jokes and end up having a breakdown, and I think that speech will be aided largely by having people to bounce off.
I think the hardest part has been learning the bloody thing! Haha! Stephen has given us a great story to tell but we all have a whopping amount to learn, so that’s been a real challenge. There’s also a huge journey for the character and a range of emotions to go through. Also, I’ve had to find the differences between my ‘Diana’ talking to the audience, my stand up comedy moments and my drag persona in the piece. It all sounds very complicated and it probably is! But I know it will be a very rewarding experience for audiences too.
Are there any similarities between you and your character?
Of course – it’s all coming from me! You can never be anything that isn’t yourself. Every part you play, if you play it well, comes from a part of yourself. It just might not be a part you access very often or can find easily. Obviously, I’m playing a drag queen as well, so there are some aspects of ‘Anna’ that appear I’m sure!
Do you have any advice for budding drag artists?
I think just play! Have a lovely time! Express yourself and do what you want to! Take some advice but ignore some as well. It’s your drag and your journey. There are no rules.
Following Die Diana, what’s next for you as a performer?
In addition to performing every month and creating new work for Cha Cha Boudoir, I’m also performing regularly for The Library, hosting the stars of Ru Paul’s Drag Race; and I travel around the country performing at lots of other drag and cabaret nights.
I’ll be travelling over to Amsterdam in October and performing over there as well as doing a UK tour of Return to Grey Gardens with Peaches Christ and Jinkx Monsoon! Things are really getting exciting!
29 – 30 June 2016, 3 – 6 July 2016, 7.30-8.30pm
Bandit Mugger & Thief, 1 Canal St, Manchester M1 3HE
Image credit: Shay Rowan