Life's A Drag

Paramount, Wellington

28/02/2007 - 03/02/2007

NZ Fringe Festival 2007

Production Details

Created by and starring Brendan Goudswaard

Life’s A Drag explores the relationship between Brendan and his alter ego Ellie Kat — a character he first created almost four years ago.  Based on his actual life and experiences, Life’s A Drag is presented comically with serious undertones and in a mixture of video and live performance.

Life’s A Drag was started as a project by Brendan for his performance installation class at Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, where he studied costume design for three years.  The first performance in September at St Johns in the City in Nelson received a standing ovation from the audience of tutors, peers, friends and the general public.  It was two tutors that suggested it be submitted to the 2007 Wellington Fringe Festival.

A further staging in Nelson was planned to help raise funds to bring Life’s A Drag to Fringe.  Demand for tickets were so strong that a matinee performance was added and people even had to sit in the aisles to meet demand.

The film element has both Brendan and Ellie talking about each other and their experiences, broken with moments of songs and dance which are either performed by Brendan on film, Ellie on stage, or both as a duet.

“I just wanted to show a side of myself and a side of drag which is very rarely seen and keep it entertaining with the truth still there,” says Brendan.

Brendan was born and bred in Wellington, attending Wellington High School (98-02) where he studied Drama, Clothing, Art, Photography and Performing Arts.  The 2001 talent quest was where the first incarnation of Ellie Kat appeared.  Since then, Ellie has gone on to perform in nightclubs and festivals in Wellington, Christchurch, Nelson and Palmerston North and headlined iMerst’s latest New Year’s Eve Neon Party.

Theatre , Solo ,

30 min

Unsatisfying except for the ending

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 06th Mar 2007

Life’s A Drag is the story of Brendan Goudswaard and his drag alter ego Ellie Kat and how Ellie, born out of Goudswaard’s desire to be a performer, takes over and becomes far bigger than ever imagined, leaving Goudswaard in the shadow of his alter ego. 

On the screen of the intimate Bergman Theatre at the Paramount a film runs showing each being interviewed about how their lives have developed.  Interspersed with this is Ellie Kat in person lip-syncing to angst ridden songs of Kylie Minogue, Britney Spears and Madonna, flaying her arms about like a demented windmill in the style of so many other poorly trained kiwi drag artistes.  She is however a peg above the rest in her appearance in that she is smartly attired with exceptionally good make-up and well coiffured wigs and there is no denying that she is confident and committed to her performance. 

However the show as a whole is very unsatisfying except for the ending where Ellie Kat strips off her dress, wig, bra and high heels revealing Goudswaard crestfallen and semi naked, the symbolism of this moment saying more than the rest of show put together. 


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A drag all right

Review by John Smythe 01st Mar 2007

Life’s a Drag pretty well lives up to its name. The idea’s okay, if unoriginal: pre-recorded onscreen interviews with Brendan Goudswaard and his drag queen alter ego Ellie Kat reveal that she became so star struck she thought she could go it alone – but of course she can’t.

The interviews, however, are ineptly non-written and badly performed. If banality as an art form is the point, it doesn’t come off. It soon emerges that the real reason for most of the words being said is to contrive the cue for the next song – usually ‘performed’ first by him, on screen, while Ellie Kat live minces and mopes in the foreground, then ‘sung’ by her while he watches on from the screen.

They are miming, of course, to the likes of George Michael and Kylie Minogue and the songs are selected to track their story.

Ms Kat, it has to be said, is gorgeous, with soulful eyes and slinky moves. But despite all the changes of wigs – all blonde – the moves are the same no matter what the song, or that’s how it seems. Just more of the same, song after song. And the sudden endings, where she walks off to do her next change while the next clip plays on screen, are technically clumsy in the extreme.

To explain how he feels when abandoned by her, Brendon sings ‘Mr Cellophane’ (from Chicago) without any of the minimalism essential to making it work. He too has a stock set of gestures and facial expressions that soon pall through repetition.

I think they reconcile but there is no sense of drama, let alone comedy, in that. The sudden segue into the ‘Shut Up’ song (Black Eyed Peas) is quite amusing but it would have been more so if we’d got sucked into some romance first. And the whole territory of self-esteem versus self loathing – the stuff of many gay icon movies – is sitting there waiting to be explored … But no. Not a chance.

Ellie Kat’s finale, when she strips from female to male – to ‘Baby I’m Crazy’ – is effective for being different, although because the make-up stays on, the transition back to Brendon is not complete. Again the chance to look deeper into the ego / alter ego theme is squandered.

Some people may think miming in drag to other people’s songs, tenuously linked by a tame and unconvincing story line, is sufficient to make a show entertaining but I don’t. I was soon bored.
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International Maven March 1st, 2007

In the hands of a good director, the raw footage of the interviews with Brendan and Ellie would really come alive. As it was, there was a surprising quality of naievete that I found quite charming. There was also a possibly unintended exploration of gender and identity that I would like to see explored. The live drag part of the show was ok, sometimes it dragged a bit, and it could have been produced more sharply. All in all, I enjoyed the show, and would recommend seeing it.

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