Drag sensation returns to the Curve in Leicester in the hit 70s and 80s musical _Hot Stuff_ with all the old favourite characters, that fabulous bum and Margaret Thatcher, Ding Dong! Meet Ceri Dupree, the lady is not for turning.
Who did you most want to be when you were growing up?
My early inspiration was Danny La Rue when I saw him on television. I always loved the more flamboyant characters in show business such as Boy George and Liberace, the show men as it were, but Danny La Rue was my greatest influence.
What was your inspiration for wanting to get into showbiz?
As a kid my inspiration was my father, he was an entertainer and cabaret singer. When I was growing up in Swansea there was a comedian called Ryan Davies, who wasn’t very well known outside of Wales, but was a household name here. My father new him and we used to see him in pantomime every year in what was then my local theatre in my home town of Swansea, the Grand Theatre. That gave me the inspiration to become a performer.
When was the first time you appeared on stage?
The first time I ever went on stage was when I was probably about 14 and it was at a school concert. The majority of people played the violin or recorder, sang a song or recited poetry but I got up and did an impression of Mrs Thatcher. I didn’t dress up as her, but had a wig and a handbag and it went down rather well.
And when did you first appear in drag?
When I was in school, we did a pantomime and I played one of the ugly sisters – I must have been around 15, I think.
You clearly love the old-school Hollywood stars and stage divas – Marilyn, Cher, Shirley Bassey… even the Queen – but who are the more modern stars you’ve deemed worthy of joining your repertoire?
Lady Gaga for obvious reasons, she’s a prime target for sending up because she is a complete parody of herself anyway, so she is great. I’ve also started working on Adele, although – dare I say it – she’s a little boring, but I do quite like her. Another new character is the woman from Dragon’s Den, Hilary Devey – she’s fantastic. She’s quite outrageous as a character, flamboyant with big shoulder pads, so I’m working on her as well. And I suppose Amy Winehouse is another.
What’s the most you’ve ever spent on a costume? And was it, by any chance, for your favourite of all the women you impersonate?
What’s the most I’ve spent? Some of my pantomime costumes can cost a fortune, the finale costumes in particular. I think the most recent one was about £5,000 this year, it was red and a hell of a lot of feathers. We’re just having a costume made now, the feathers alone have cost £850, so when it is done it will be in the thousands. I’ve never spent more than £7,000 on a costume, but sometimes they can cost as little as £350 – it depends on the character and what materials you are putting on it. The most expensive one in Hot Stuff is probably be the Dolly Parton one which is encrusted in Swarovski crystals. Only today I had a delivery of orange feathers– you cannot get into my dining room now, it’s like an explosion on an ostrich farm!
What’s your Favourite Hot Stuff costume?
The Punk costume. It’s very pointy, it’s very purple and it’s got chains on the end!
What makes Lucy Fur such a great character to play?
Because she is glamorous and evil. It’s always fabulous to play the villain; any actor will tell you that. Whether it’s King Rat in Dick Whittington, Abanazar in Alladin or the Wicked Queen, it’s great to play glamorous and evil. She’s a seductress in a way – I always see her as a cross between Cruella de Vil, Joan Collins and Frank N. Furter from the Rocky Horror Show.
What’s new for this year and what can seasoned Hot Stuffers look forward to?
I’m not sure what’s new in the show just yet, but I’m working on 5 new costumes in total for this run. One of them is a heavy beaded costume, with black and purple beads, a Christmas outfit – with a snowball on my head, a new outfit for Tina Turner and a lovely full feathered coat for the finale.
Why do audiences come back, time after time?
I think because it’s a simply a brilliant show. I know people who will see it during its run about 20 times, they just love it, or people who will see it 3 or 4 times. I used to think it was the nostalgia of those who were around in the 70s but I honestly cannot say that now as youngsters, who weren’t even born in the 70s are now discovering the show and loving it. It’s the music, the rhythm, the costumes – everything about it. Plus my bum is fabulous! That sells tickets!
Why is it such a big hit in Leicester?
It’s because it was created here, it’s Leicester’s baby and the city loves just the show. If it had toured every year around the country it would have been a phenomenon, a cult show like Rocky Horror Show. It’s Leicester’s best kept secret. And for those new to Leicester – a rite of passage!
What’s Your Favourite Hot Stuff Number?
Probably ‘Stand By Your Man’ and the funniest sketch is when I come on as the Irish nun. I quite like that.
This year I know the audience will react to when I appear as Mrs Thatcher. She was the first woman I ever impersonated and I have enjoyed playing her ever since, especially in Hot Stuff. Love her or hate her, she was undoubtedly the most famous woman of her time and has left a lasting legacy. I’m looking forward to reviving her in this year’s Hot Stuff. I’m sure her arrival on stage will have a big response, as it always has!