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Bearbarella is quite clearly ludicrous. As a concept it is simple – a drag parody of the guns-and-tits odyssey Barbarella. This satirical stage show, produced by Mancunian Bren Callaghan and written and directed by San Francisco’s Peaches Christ, stars Lady Bear as the titular Bearbarella. Starring alongside the SF queens were Manchester’s very own premier drag divas, Anna Phylactic and Cheddar Gawjus, with guest roles from Grace Oni Smith, Violet Blonde and Liquorice Black.
Bearbarella was a camp romp. The daftness of it was a perfect ode to the 60s science fiction original – but with plenty of queer jokes thrown in for good measure. There were jokes about poppers, dildos and barebacking (or was it ‘bear-backing’?), with an in-video-only appearance from Alaska Thunderfuck, Bjork-speaking ladybug backing dancers (the Ultraviolets), and a loin-shuddering Orgasmatron to elicit climaxes from Peaches’ victims.
Speaking of which, the end of the show included an ‘Orgasmatron challenge’, where members of the audience were invited up to give their best cum-face while placed inside the Orgasmatron. Two young hopefuls were called up – with the winner being local young drag queen Marilyn Misandry.
The event was part of the nationwide BFI science fiction season Days of Fear and Wonder – which saw the cast performing in Glasgow and Belfast too – and is supported by Film Hub NWC. The San Franciscans were clear in their admiration for British (and especially Mancunian) drag – and pointed out that Manchester was their favourite city to visit.
Bearbarella was a perfect example of what inclusive arts programming can be – something that fuses the underground DIY cool of Manchester and San Francisco’s queer performance scenes with the niche appeal of cult film. It was a seamless blend of camp and cool, and for that, we salute the Bearbarella team!