By Sam Whitehouse.
On the 9th of March 2020, Sasha Velour brought her one woman drag show to the Palace
Theatre, Manchester. Part bootleg magic show, part sexy Ted talk, Smoke and Mirrors
combines 13 lip-sync performances previously performed in nightclubs and translates them
to the big stage. Velour stands before a large screen onto which is projected fantastical
landscapes inhabited by a host of Velourian characters who operate as prop hands, backing
dancers and clowns.
Though a proscenium arch theatre, Velour reminded us this was still a drag show, and that
as queer people we let ourselves known when we feel something. Velour transforms the
Palace Theatre into an incredulous world of camp and clownery. Having originally intended
to be a graphic illustrator, Velour’s two passions of performance and art come together in an
explosion of colour, humour and beauty. Her imagination runs wild as she fights tumultuous
storms, transforms into a majestic tree and even saws her projected, incarceration in half.
Each performance is nuanced and emotive, the costumes are immaculate and Velour’s
personality shines through. Smoke and Mirrors is essentially an autobiographical piece,
segments of the show consist of Velour chatting to the audience, she discusses her
introduction to drag, the creation of the show and the support of her late mother Jane
Hedges. This led into a touching tribute through a lip sync to Shirley Bassey’s ‘If You Go
Away’. She ends with Nina Simone’s ‘Wild is the Wind’, Velour stood tall as a tree, the
projected visuals transforming into each of the four seasons.
Perhaps, one of the most fascinating queens to emerge from Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Velour
defines her own form of drag in Smoke and Mirrors cementing herself as a phenomenal
queer artist. Velour brings together Nosterfareau, Judy Garland and camp, clownery to
create a sensational theatrical spectacle. Velour’s Smoke and Mirrors is a love letter to drag
and she herself is drags biggest fan. She made a point of celebrating Manchester’s own
vibrant drag scene, and in each city she had gifted complimentary tickets to local drag
artists. As an aspiring drag artist myself, Smoke and Mirrors was a night of queer magic that
dazzled inspired and left me excited and hopeful for the future of drag.