TV Review: RuPaul's Drag Race UK, BBC Three

TV Review: Ru Paul's Drag Race UK, BBC Three

The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there. Well, they certainly do RuPaul's Drag Race differently in the UK. Where the American version oozes glamour, the British version is a little more Carry On Panto At The End of the Peir. The winner gets a "Ru-Peter badge". I don't think you get drag acts in America called Baga Chipz or Cheryl Hole using words like "gobshite" and "minge".*

This stark difference is both a strength and a weakness of this incarnation. In the opening edition ten drag queens competed in various tasks to survive, in classic reality style, until the next week. In one section with the use of pretty basic-looking green screen technology they had to pose for pictures and come up with snappy one-liners. The gags made the corny quips on Blind Date seem like Dorothy Parker. The winner of the section triumphed by being shot with their head between their legs and saying that they had shat themselves out.

With so many contestants starting out the first episode had to cram a lot in, but gradually personalities emerged in the dressing room. Some of the older acts had been around the block a few times, some of the younger ones were extremely new. We got to hear about their frailties and insecurites but without the mawkish "journey" element of Britain's Got Talent.

Instead of too much sentimentality there was a nice slice of surreal humour alongside the bawdiness and entendres. Sum Ting Wong – yes, that's their name – came from Birmingham so in one round where people had to represent their hometown they came as famous Midlands shopping centre the Bullring - complete with horns and a bull's ring through their nose.

The series has a lot of star judges lined up and in this opener Alan Carr and Andrew "She takes the man out of Olivia Colman"" Garfield traded gags with fellow jurist Michelle Visage. The jokes flew thick and fast during a round in which the competitors had to strut their stuff with a royal theme. The outfits – from Old Queen Liz to someone dressed as a stamp with "lick me" on the back – were fantastic. A lot more than just sticky back plastic and some old rags.

There have been criticisms of the show for being a bit trad and not being diverse enough. There were no Drag Kings for example and very few BAME entrants. In fact one of the BAME queens, Vinegar Strokes (pictured) was in the lip synch-off to to Dua Lipa's New Rules with Gothy Kendoll and only one of them would go through. You'll have to watch to find out who triumphs. You'll also find out what Vinegar Strokes means, which was news to me – I grew up thinking it meant something almost entirely different. But as I said, the past is a foreign country. 

New episodes of RuPaul's Drag Race UK are released on iPlayer every Thursday at 8pm. 

Picture: BBC/World of Wonder/Guy Levy

*Actually Paul Holmes, founder of website Velvet Onion, has pointed out that the runner up of Season 7 was Ginger Minj.


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