Preview: Dragging up the Past

Euan McIver will be performing 'Dragging up the past' at the Maltings
Euan McIver will be performing 'Dragging up the past' at the Maltings

If you hadn’t noticed already, it’s approaching Christmas time, again, when thoughts turn to snow, turkey and pantomime.

And Coldstream’s Euan Mciver might have given panto more thought than most, as he has been preparing his one man show on the history of drag acts.

“It was Matthew Rooke at the Maltings, actually, who brought up the idea,” says Euan. “From there it developed into a show charting the whole history of drag.

“So it became this huge thing,and I mean it goes back something like 2,700 years, way back to Greek and Roman times.

“They just didn’t want women on the stage. Of course, we know that in Restoration times, in Britain, that would have ben thought of as improper.

“I’m sure that everybody who’s seen Shakespeare In love will understand that. And, in many ways, Shakespeare is the supreme example of a dramatist writing for men dressing as women.

“But this was universal, the idea was even found in Japanese and Chinese culture as well.”

After reaching back into the distant past, Euan doesn’t exactly ‘drag’ his heels, running with the idea right up to the modern day.

“I take it right up to Stonewall and beyond,” he continues. “That was a real turning point, those riots in 1969, when these New York drag queens who had been forced underground decided to just push back.”

After that, Euan is away, bringing us right up to date with 21st century dames like Dame Edna Everage.

“She was fantastic, the way that the act was very modern,” says Euan, “it was very interesting for a character to break the ‘fourth wall’ like that.”

He adds that his own show takes something of Dame Edna’s spirit: “It will be like that, there will be quite a bit of interaction.”

And as well as honouring dames of the past, audiences are treated to a quick burst of real Hollywood glamour , in the shape - and what a shape! - of Mae West and the immortal Bette Davis.

Euan is making the best use of his collection of costumes for ‘Dragging up the Past’.

“I’ve actually been collecting pieces for about 30 years,” he says.

“When they were auctioning off Danny La Rue’s dresses down in London I managed to get a few of them.

Euan started his stage life as a mimic, and he was lucky enough to be an understudy to a very famous Scottish drag act - Stanley Baxter, whose caricature of the Queen (or the Duchess of Brenda, as she was known on his TV show) was a mainstay of Scottish TV.

As well as being Baxter’s understudy and stage double for ten years, he has appeared alongside the likes Rikki Fulton and “the dear ladies”, Hinge and Bracket in pantomimes the length and breadth of the country.

Indeed, when Patrick Fyffe (Dame Hilda Bracket) died, he left Euan some of his costumes as well.

Euan says he is looking forward to his two night run at the Maltings, and may be looking for ways to extend the show’s life.

“If you’ll excuse the joke,” he says, “I would really like it to have legs!”

Dragging up the Past is on at The Maltings, Berwick, on Friday November 14 and Saturday November 15, with both shows starting at 7pm.

Tickets are available online or from the box office, and cost £12 (£10.50 concessions). Age 12+, duration 1 hr 45 min with an interval.