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RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Rats The Rusical
via BBC3

Drag Race UK’s unhinged Rats: The Rusical sees underdogs rise up

A visual representation of my frazzled mental state, the second episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK gave us the best of British musical theatre camp, riotous runway commentary, and a kind of iconic Macarena

I’ve reached that time of the pandemic again where I feel like I’m properly losing it, so what better way to garnish my own frazzled mental state than witnessing Rats: The Rusical, the maxi challenge of RuPaul’s Drag Rage UK episode two, and a truly unhinged spectacle with no narrative coherence. Once again, this show is proving to be an oasis in the arid desert of my weekly lockdown calendar. 

My own sex life is so barren that the mere allusion to a past dalliance between A’Whora and Tayce practically had me smoking a cigarette in vicarious satisfaction. To be fair, Tayce is so gorgeous both in and out of drag that she makes me reconsider my unsuccessful trysts with both girls and gay men in the summers of my youth. Yes, turns out a very beautiful drag queen can make me mourn, once more, the sad fact of my heterosexuality, which dooms me to bad dates with management consultants called Pete forever. Oh well. 

The standard of the competitors this year is incredibly high. It is impossible at this point to predict who will make the final. Last week, Veronica Green was billed as an underdog, and who, out of drag, has the aura of someone who works in IT. But in this episode, she turned out to be a sultry sex goddess as the Rusical’s Evita Von Fleas, wearing a skintight, nude illusion suit with fake rats feeding on her nipples. At the sight of this, I assumed I was simply disassociating. Tia Kofi, whose Alan Turing runway look became the first big Twitter meme of the series, has also flipped the narrative: though voted the most basic of the queens in the mini challenge, in all honesty, she’s starting to become a little bit iconic. On the runway, her leather daddy first look was removed to reveal a truly hideous dress that looked like one taken from the wardrobe of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 2008 series I’d Do Anything!, and then she inexplicably started doing the macarena. One interesting queen I would like to see get more of the spotlight is Scouse queen Sister Sister, whose looks are charming.

Sheridan Smith, an icon of British musical theatre, looked so delighted to be a guest judge. It’s easy to understand why: sharing a judging role with Alan Carr seems like one of the best jobs in Britain right now. His runway commentary is astute; Carr refers to Ginny Lemon’s footwear and brands her a “Croc Destroyer”, which officially makes him a key worker in my eyes. Tayce was rightly critiqued for relying too much on her looks and wound up in the bottom two, a narrative arc that can be an clarifying moment for queens who are used to being feted: this competition is anyone’s to win. 

Cherry Valentine, who spoke about the rarely heard experience of being gay in a traveller community, failed to shine in the Rusical and ended up lipsyncing against Tayce. Tayce was obviously going to out-lipsync Cherry: before the ladies even began to perform “Memory”, Cherry’s fate was sealed. She duly went home. It’s a shame, as she had so much more to give but, on the other hand, she is now working in a Covid vaccination centre, so I’d probably rather have her shooting people up with the vaccine than on that runway: no shade, I’m just going quietly mad in my house, and bolstering the NHS with drag queens offers some optimism.

“Memory” as a lipsync song was also hilarious – this simply would not happen in the US. It’s nice to see this particular brand of camp, emboldened and elevated by the glittering British history of musical theatre, appear in an era of high-gloss, FaceTuned Instagram drag.