The Gallifrey Cabaret is an 18+ Doctor Who-themed drag and cabaret show. Despite only having four shows in its belt so far, it has already had performances across the country in London, Manchester and Cardiff. Each performance has raised money for charities such as Cabaret vs Cancer. To celebrate Pride month, we’ve interviewed co-producer Reece Connolly about his experiences with the club night, the LGBT+ Doctor Who fandom, and his hopes for the future of the show.
The LGBT Doctor Who Fandom
What was your first experience with the LGBT Doctor who fandom?
It was probably through twitter mainly, just falling into it. Twitter can be quite good at times because you find little communities relatively quickly. Fell into the Doctor who community and then the LGBT Doctor who fandom which is quite big in and of itself. And then if you’re talking about the first LGBTQ Doctor who fan that I knew properly – that would probably be my partner. We met at uni and bonded over the tv show they love so much. He’s now also a drag artist and my co-producer for the night.
What’s your definitive queer Doctor Who moment?
The one that instantly springs to mind is in series 1, episode 2, ‘The End of the World’ as they watch the Earth burning, and then just Earth Lady Cassandra dropping Toxic by Britney Spears on the jukebox. It blew my mind when I watched it at the age of about 11 or 12. To see such a queer coded moment, it was such a thrill at the time, and showed how cool, fun, different – Doctor who could be for me.
New Faces, More Representation
With Jinkx Monsoon, Yasmin Finney and Neil Patrick Harris, Russel T Davies has already cast many LGBT icons for his new era. Which casting announcement has got you most excited so far?
Probably Yasmin Finney, she’s such a wonderful actor, we’ve all seen her in Heartstopper, and she’s one of those actors that you just know is going to go on to have an incredible career – in the same way as Ncuti Gatwa. I think it’s so exciting to have a trans woman, and especially a trans woman of color, cast in such a flagship show, in a flagship franchise. It’s a type of representation that’s long overdue but gratifying to see on the global platform and in the kind of environment that we have now. Where, you know, people can be dead against representation, and them committing to saying, no, it is absolutely necessary and good. Especially knowing what effect it will have on young LGBT Doctor Who fans when they see Yasmin Finney. It might be their first time ever seeing themselves represented on screen, let alone on their favorite show.
Creating the Gallifrey Cabaret
What led you to create the Gallifrey Cabaret shows?
Initially, it was just an idea. I’ve been a performer for many years but not really in the Cabaret space, whereas my partner Carrot has been, for about 6 or 7 years. I brought the idea to them because I’d kind of noticed the expansion of themed drag shows and how well they were doing, and thought that a Doctor Who night in particular would be so fun. Then the idea didn’t go anywhere for a while, until we talked to someone we know at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (a classic London LGBT+ pub and performance venue) and he helped us set it up and encouraged us to give it a go. And then, the rest is history. Every time we’ve done it we’ve been astounded by how popular and supportive the audience us, every show has been sold out, and we’re amazed it’s not been done before – drag such an important part of the LGBT+ scene and the performance scene and we just thought that if we don’t do it either someone else will or it will never get done which would be even worse.
What was involved in organizing the first Gallifrey Cabaret event?
Once we got the go ahead from the venue, it was time to find the cast because a cabaret is only as good as its cast. The draw is in making it a real variety of different styles and types of performers. So we posted a shout-out to ask for people’s interest and get the feels out – and this went well, lots of people influx from social media mention. In fact we still get many still people who we’re programming now who we found working from the DMs from a few years ago because we got so many. It’s the easiest show ever worked on, because performing can be so hard and no one really has much money – but this show sells so well and it allows everyone to relax and focus on putting on the best show that they can.
How has the process of organizing these events changed over time?
Every time it gets easier in certain ways – we know it’s going to sell well so there’s less immediate stress about that and no stress about finding performers. So it becomes case of making sure we’re not resting on our laurels, keeping it new and experimental and fresh, keeping a variety of acts. Making sure we’re not necessarily repeating the same performers every time or same type of acts or even acts based on the same era of the show etc. And making sure that every show whether it’s your first one or you’ve come along to all of them, is the best it can be and shows a whole spectrum of queer people and performance. So it’s not just drag but we’ve also had burlesque, lip sync, live singing and stand up as well. The one thing we’ve not really had that I’d love to see is I’d love to have a magician, I love magic. There are infinite ideas that you can do really, so I think it’s about creating a proper variety.
What have been your favorite moments at the Gallifrey Cabaret so far?
It’s a hard question – every single act has been fabulous, but some of the first that come to mind are – we’ve had a burlesque weeping angel where the performer used strobe lighting to achieve the effect of not moving, a striptease dalek – actually a lot of striptease Daleks. And we had one performer who played the Absorbaloff and live sang – a drag queen called The Fat Black Duchess who sang ‘Chasing pavements’ by Adele in reference to the ‘pavement scene’ in Love and Monsters. We’ve had the weirdest wackiest stuff, drag king rasputin Master from the Power of the Doctor, a drag queen Jackie Tyler – I feel like I’m doing a disservice by singling any out, every single one of them have been amazing – and I’d invite any single one of them back.
What’s been your favorite part of running the Gallifrey Cabaret?
Probably getting to help create an event that brings together so many wonderful fans into a room. Because a lot of the time the fandom is behind a screen and that can be quite isolating, and can sometimes be quite nasty, but it’s just different when you’re connecting in a more physical way. This has always been a gorgeous opportunity to give people the chance to feel that love in the room for the show and world of Doctor Who – showing off amazing performers. This has been my favorite show – I love it for being niche, for how much love there is on the room and on the stage, that’s the best thing about it.
Who is your favorite Doctor and companion?
So hard because I genuinely love them all, at this moment it’s the 12th doctor, I’ve been going back to a lot of his episodes. As for the companions, I love most of them but my favorite is Donna Noble – and actually I’d have loved to see those two together!
Who do you think would be the most unlikely ally in the Whoniverse?
Ooh – the Master – they are such a quintessentially gloriously evil with total disregard for humanity, but as for being a bigot on sexuality, gender identity or skin color etc. they’d consider that so pointless, like there’s no argument for it. And of course they’re the first Time Lord on screen to change their gender. So they’re 100% an ally – if not an active member of the community themselves.
What’s your favorite LGBT+ ship in Doctor Who?
I didn’t realize that Jamie and the 2nd Doctor were even a thing until recently. Now I find that kind of cute – I don’t know whether I could say I ship it because there are some issues there, like with the age gap, but overall I appreciate that they both have a similar energy and it seems like a cute idea to think that might have had something coded in there even all the way back in the earlier episodes. If you’d have asked me a few years ago I’d have said 13 and yaz – but now that’s 100% canon. I’m just sad that we didn’t get to see more of it. But I’m glad that we got what we had at least.
What are your biggest wishes for the 60th anniversary and series 14?
That’s it’s unafraid to experiment and honor where it’s come from whilst not being held back from it. But honestly I think we’re good for that or it wouldn’t have got to a 60th anniversary to begin with! From what we’ve seen and the people working on it – I hope they take big swings -and just see where we can take this show. And I hope for a moment that gives kids watching now as much glee and thrill as Cassandra’s ‘Toxic ‘ moment did for me 18 years ago. No pressure Russel!
What would you say for anyone who wants to come to Gallifrey Cabaret but has been on the fence?
If you’ve not been before or you’re not sure it’s your kind of thing, just come along and give it a go. It’s such a good vibe with the nicest crowd who are just the most supportive and lovely, there will always be someone ready to take you under their wing. Or equally you’re more than welcome to chill at the back. Also if it’s more of a financial issue we have a scheme here whereby the VIP tickets not only benefit from added extras but also they pay more to subsidize pay what you can afford tickets. So if there’s any problems there, just get in touch. We want to make sure that there’s space for everyone on board our little TARDIS, and Carrot especially is pushing accessibility as that’s something we take very seriously. And also whether you’re a Doctor Who fan or not, it’s such good fun. In fact some of our nicest praise is when people drag along their partners or their flatmates who aren’t fans and by the end of the night they’re saying, “I didn’t know what was going on but I had the best night!” It would be lovely to see you there.
What’s the best way to keep track of the Gallifrey Cabaret events? What’s coming up next?
The best way is to keep up with mine and Carrot’s social media and the RVT’s social media, especially on twitter. We also use instagram to announce and promote our shows. In terms of what’s next, we’re planning a big, big event in the RVT in November to celebrate the 60th anniversary, and we’re hopefully trying to squeeze another club night somewhere else in the Uk between now and then too. And we’re not just limited to Doctor Who now, we’ve started to produce more club nights like we’re just going to come out with a Jurassic Park cabaret night – because everybody loves dinosaurs. So we’re just looking for the weirdest and most niche franchises possible to work with and develop a night for!
Interview edited for length and clarity.