A brand new performance space for the thriving drag and cabaret scene in Cardiff
“A place to be yourself, lose yourself- maybe even find yourself! A home for Cabaret. A place to come and be surprised. A place to feel safe with a community of people who want to be challenged, to think, to laugh, to find joy. All in all - a total vibe!”
The thriving drag and cabaret scene in Cardiff is about to welcome a brand new performance space as part the biggest refurbishment in Wales Millennium Centre’s 18 year history.
Opening in early 2023, the venue will open a 140 seat cabaret space as part of a £4m refurbishment project that also includes a revamp the main foyer and a new member’s lounge. We caught up with Peter Darney, the Cabaret Producer and Programmer at WMC.
“I think historically there have been fewer opportunities for cabaret artists to make work and perform in Wales, and so they have had to either move away, or travel to perform.” Darney says. “But the inventiveness and skills here in Wales are second to none. And of course - we can all sing!”
The joy of opening the new space for Darney is challenging artists to create in a new way, with the platform that Wales Millenium Centre can offer. “The Cardiff cabaret scene is as delicious as a Welsh cake - but not as flat and much fruiter! I’m continually surprised by the inventiveness of people and the creativity that can happen on comparatively small budgets.”
Twm Bollen-Molloy (also known as Polly Amorous), a drag queen who has starred in the alternative Christmas shows at the venue the last two years champions the quality of drag and cabaret in Cardiff.
“I moved to Cardiff in 2014 and never looked back.” Twm says “I know I’m biased, but I think the drag scene in Cardiff is one of the best in the UK despite being criminally underrated and overlooked. We house some of the biggest titans of cabaret from around the UK; Jolene Dover, Miss Kitty, Pixie Perez, Amber Dextrous, Mary Golds… to name but a few.”
The impact of the new space is likely to be felt amongst the Welsh LGBTQIA+ community, given the new amount of opportunity that is likely to come out WMC’s new venture.
“I’m a Welshie through and through but I’m originally from Caerleon, a small village sitting outside the outskirts of Newport.” Twm says. “I felt isolated as a queer individual growing up in an overwhelmingly heteronormative environment and Newport is really lacking in an LGBTQ+ scene so moving to Cardiff and finding so many like-minded people and my community did everything and more for my confidence, my mental health and my journey as a young queer individual.”
Ahead of the new space opening the WMC is still presenting a subversive delight this Christmas, with their production of ‘The Lion, The B!tch and The Wardrobe’, hot on the heels of last year’s ‘XXXmas Carol’. Featuring drag, circus, music and burlesque, the show is an irreverent parody of the well known children’s book, but is absolutely for over 18s only! Twm Bollen-Molloy leads the cast.
“In ‘The Lion, The B!tch and The Wardrobe’ I play a very complex, dynamic and interesting character - myself. Polly plays a merger of the narrator and protagonist, guiding the audience in their journey through the wardrobe and into Narnia. Polly is used to be the star of any stage that she steps on, so having to share the limelight with a diverse eccentric group of very talented performers - I’m sure you can imagine how frustrating she must find that and that definitely is a dynamic we explore in the show but you’ll have to come on down to find out whether she learns to share the spotlight or not!”
So what can audiences expect from the new WMC space? Variety is the order of business, according to Darney: “We have Burlesque, Boy-lesque, Bhangra, bingo, comedy, circus, music, drag and a whole lot more.”
“Before coming here, I had a lot of freelance experience in producing and making work, and having made work myself, it does help me understand the processes the artists we work with are going through.”
It’s hoped that the venue will continue the meteoric growth of cabaret and queer work in Cardiff, nurturing established performers and adding new voices to the vibrant arts scenes that the Welsh capital.
“I want to see a vast increase in the representation of queer, trans and POC voices.” Twe says. “There is so much colour and beauty in this world and it spans much further than the stories told by white, cis-gendered individuals.”
“Shows like this are a huge deal not just for the performers who take part but also the future of Cardiff, Wales and further so venues like Wales Millennium Centre who are commissioning work created by minorities for EVERYONE should be celebrated.”
As Managing Director of Wales Millennium Centre, Mathew Milsom has publicly said “Our new spaces are designed to welcome you, whoever you are and wherever you’re from, into our new gateway to the arts in Wales.”
See In ‘The Lion, The B!tch and The Wardrobe’ throughout December 2022 and the new space in 2023. www.wmc.org.uk/cabaret