Becoming Electra: A Queer Mitzvah is set in Electra’s bedroom. It’s her 18th birthday party and she doesn’t want to go downstairs because she’s invited all sorts to her party and can’t cope with them meeting and what that means.
“it has totally surprised us how much the play has meant to people. The emotional response has been really unexpected. We have received standing ovations everywhere we go”
From her synagogue friends to the more edgy, cool group from her slam dunk poetry posse in Kentish Town, as well as her Jewish family, can they co-exist and what will people think of her?
Becoming Electra: A Queer Mitzvah has received rave reviews and standing ovations everywhere it goes.
Originally commissioned by JW3, a Jewish cultural centre in London, to provide a more diverse offering, it features drag queen Guy Woolf, and is written by Guy’s partner playwright Isla van Tricht.
“It’s about who we are and asks why we have to label ourselves,” Guy says.
Essentially a heart-warming and original one-woman musical show about a queer Jewish girl trying to find her voice, Electra struggles to reconcile conflicting elements of her identity: can she tell her queer friends she’s Jewish and her Jewish friends that she’s queer?
“I don’t want to tell the audience what to think,” Isla continues. “I just want to take them on this journey with us and invite them into the conversation about what it means to be your true self and how you get to that point.
“We hope its cathartic, empowering and affirmative. People have laughed and cried, but there is no definitive answer and we don’t try to give one.”
Guy’s alter ego, drag queen Electra, therefore provided the perfect vehicle for her performance.
Guy became a drag queen at Cambridge University and has been performing as one fifth of highly successful troupe Denim for the past eight years.
Having taken a one year hiatus to do their own thing gave Guy and Isla time to explore their questions more thoroughly.
“Electra is basically my alter ego, and exciting to play as a character. Your drag queen is your daemon, so basically I have been developing Electra for the past eight years and her narrative has grown and developed into a person that we wanted to give a voice to, a narrative, a story, rather than doing five minute songs in Denim. And this is the result.
“The play formalises who she is and her identity, so this is Electra’s time in the limelight, to discover who she is, while explaining her back story.
“Her Jewishness is part of her identity, as I explore mine going forward, so the show works well because faith and uncertainty go together. We have lots of questions,” Guy adds.
As for being in a solo show, Guy says: “It’s a new experience for both of us, but Isla has really taken who Electra is and made her whole, so it’s been an amazingly collaborative process, and a real challenge.
Isla continues: “I have always loved drag since I was a teen. It’s musical theatre with pop, and a narrative, wrapped up in these explosive characters. So I wanted to write a play that encapsulated that while giving them a voice – the highs and lows – with elements of cabaret and songs.
“Because music sharpens you and is a safe place to discuss complex ideas, as well as being emotive so takes you to another level.”
Which is why Becoming Electra: A Queer Mitzvah has gone down so well. “I love performing outside London,” Guy adds, “because it is really reaffirming and gives you a better sense of the work.
“I don’t want to tell the audience what to think. “I just want to take them on this journey with us and invite them into the conversation about what it means to be your true self and how you get to that point”
“We have had some amazingly warm receptions, and it has totally surprised us how much the play has meant to people. The emotional response has been really unexpected. We have received standing ovations everywhere we go.
“This has really pushed me as an actor, and it helps to demonstrate that drag is not all panto and club nights – it’s an art form and shows like this really subvert that, while asking questions about faith, gender, judgement and identity.
“Being a drag artist is an amazing thing in its universality, a real performance vehicle for whatever you like, so it’s been an amazing journey.”
Becoming Electra: A Queer Mitzvah. 12+
OFS Thursday 28 November @ 7.30pm