The Glory pub in Haggerston is heaving with people eager to grab the seats behind the judges of the Gold Rush competition to witness some of the rawest and most innovative drag performances in London.
Monroe Adams was the winner of The Gold Rush series two. Picture: Supplied.
Since the pub opened almost five years ago, co-owners Jonny Woo and John Sizzle have hosted some of the capital’s finest drag events like Sink The Pink and Man Up, and have made The Glory an indispensable queer venue and a rival to neighbourhood established giants like Dalston Superstore.
Taylor Trash, the glam creator of the Gold Rush who has a reputation in the industry for helping newcomers, is sat in front of the small stage in the crowded basement of The Glory and next to her are the guest judges.
Now in its third season, the six-week competition – with cabaret performance at its heart – aims to discover London’s most exciting drag talent.
This Monday, kings and queens are paired up to perform in the roles of iconic duos like Paris Hilton and Nicole Ricci, or Spongebob and Patrick.
The format of Gold Rush is similar to RuPaul’s Drag Race, which had its first UK episode aired on TV only last Thursday.
But whilst the reality show seems more focused on the visual look of the drag queens and their runway walk, Gold Rush revolves around the challenges that Taylor Trash sets for the performers each week.
“The idea is, the further you get in the competition, the bigger the repertoire you will have at the end of the run,” the drag queen explained.
Taylor Trash created the competition as she felt “disenchanted” by the drag scene back then.
“If you didn’t look a certain way, or performed Ariana Grande mixes or weren’t a white cis-gendered gay male you had a higher chance of being overlooked.”
And whilst Ru Paul’s show has previously come under fire for excluding performers who do not fit the mainstream perception of a drag artist, Taylor Trash wants to ensure that there’s space for marginalised communities at the Gold Rush.
She said “I’m on a personal mission to democratise drag. I wanted to create something where everyone, regardless of their race, body, and gender identity, background or performance style could come and have stage time.”
Taylor Trash added “The challenges we set are also there to influence people to think differently about their references and help cultivate a more creative and open scene within the London Drag Community.”
The standard of performance is set very high and drag kings and queens are encouraged and expected to embrace their individuality and be their weirdest and freakiest selves.
“There’s only so many times you can see six different performers lipsync ‘I’m telling you I’m not going’ before you start to feel like you’re going insane,” Taylor Trash explained.
Madonna Kebab, who was voted fifth in season one of the competition, said she moved to London to become a professional drag queen but it was almost impossible to book a gig without a portfolio of performances.
A friend put her in touch with Taylor Trash who agreed to include her in season one of the Gold Rush.
Madonna Kebab said “Think of the competition as a drag washing machine – they shove you in, give you a little polish in the form of critique from the judges and art direction, and you come out ready to fight the world.”
The drag queen said she came out of the Gold Rush not only with great contacts but also with a polished repertoire that she built during the competition by being bombarded with challenges set up by Taylor Trash.
Now, with the confidence that she gained from being part of “the Gold Rush alumni”, Madonna Kebab said her career has skyrocketed and venues often want to book her saying they have watched her on the competition.
Next week, the queens and kings are challenged to base their act around a hackneyed reference from the drag world like lipsyncing to Beyonce. To get through to the next round, they would have to make the performance personable and wow the judges.
The Gold Rush is on every Monday from 7pm at The Glory, 281 Kingsland Road, and tickets can be purchased via OutSavvy app.