The Nightbus: Bearded. Muslim. Drag.
Describing herself as “Europe's Premier Bearded Muslim Drag Queen” was enough for ‘The Nightbus’ to capture A Clodhoppers attention. The self proclaimed drag terrorist, queer performer, media artist and academic troll is a character that stands out from the crowd thanks to, what we called, a political approach to drag performance. But the bearded dame says otherwise “I wouldn't necessarily say my work was political, rather it's terrorising. Simply put, it's a manifestation of my experiences that have pushed me towards an edge I refuse to jump off, so I'll back up and point a proverbial shotgun at you instead, and see how you like it.” Watch out ladies, gentlemen and other...The Nightbus comes with a warning if you hadn’t heeded already: “More sensitive passengers are requested to take several seats, strap the fuck in and enjoy the ride!”
After touring Europe and the US, a run at Edinburgh Fringe and a rather wonderful commission by Manchester International Festival called ‘Hate’, The Nightbuss's baroque body and it’s accompanying mega star wattage seems to be on the ascent and it’s not because she panders to an audience. The concern in this case seems not to be the viewers pleasure but rather their accountability when asked what politics she is attracted to “The type that isn't squeaky clean and a call for solidarity. I want my audience to leave feeling personally accountable for the events I perform about. Because they are.” Whilst The Nightbus performances are striking and in-your-face, a solid concept to wrap your head around does seem to be absent in the litany of videos available on social media. Sometimes words can be seen projected on a screen, politicians can be heard saying things like “strong and stable” and in one performance the whole act is done lip syncing to an iphone perched on a selfie stick with no regard for the audience - but often nothing is explicitly said. The closest thing to a clear message is when The Nightbus throws what looks like folded aluminium, retrieved from her brasier, at the crowd shouting “who needs guns, I’ve got guns here for everyone...”. So what does it all MEAN? “It's open to interpretation and I purposefully don't surmise my story in there. If people get it, they'll relay opinion I can attribute as factual. If not, then that's fine too. I'm still growing and past experience has told me there's a lot to be gleaned from how my work is absorbed.” A Clodhopper is not getting a definitive answer and therefore will not be providing one...
In A Clodhopper experiences, and there are definitely exceptions (see Virgin Xtravaganzah for example), drag performers shy away from politics, are often cute with a bit of caricature and a busload of imitation for laughs. The Nightbus seems to concur that humour is often the end game but points out the medium is a statement in its own right “Drag is a political act in itself. It's negotiating a boundary of gender expectation that society give leniency and flexibility around for a greater purpose - usually laughter”. So it’s refreshing to see an act that confronts political discourse beyond some innuendo directed at easy government targets, so why hasn’t she taken the easy root, why tackle politics as a bearded muslim drag queen? “Drag is an artistic medium that can be moulded and shaped into whatever narrative you choose. Politics is often an un-encroached subject matter because of sensitivity but a character portrayed through a familiar or disarming medium generates momentum in expanding on things we all know and fear.” Not direct but certainly eloquent in her phrasing this is clearly, to borrow the bearded lioness’s words, ‘a drag terrorist; with a busload to say on oppression, hatred and marginalisation”. In A Clodhoppers words - this a drag act that will not hand you the answer...but will slap you in the face and make you think about WHY?