In a world in which gender has been outlawed and all people are neutral, what place is there for identity and personal expression?
Unafraid to tackle questions that sit at the very heart of who they are, Ri Baroche is drawing on lived experience, personal stories and quantum physics in their latest one-person show, Drag ‘n’ Drop!, which the Hampshire-based non-binary writer, performer and musician has been working on at Lighthouse as part of the summer Sanctuary programme in which artists make use of space at Lighthouse, for free and with technical support, to develop new work.
“I was never particularly engaged with science at school as a kid, but since I’ve learned more about quantum physics I’ve become fascinated by it,” they explain.
Essentially, quantum thinking is that two apparently opposite states can exist simultaneously. So, particles can be up and down at the same time, or even dead and alive, as in the famous Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment. Hypothetically, a cat is sealed in a box with something that could kill it. The only way to find out if the cat is dead or alive is to open the box but until the box is opened it must be assumed the cat is both dead and alive.
“So, the state of the cat is only learned when it is observed. I’m interested in how that affects society’s perception of gender. Successive campaigns in this country to regulate for a third gender have failed, but if gender is a question of perception perhaps it makes non-binary people, such as I am, easier for people generally to identify with?”
Drag ‘n’ Drop!, which Ri is touring from November and bringing to Lighthouse on 2 February, has been developed over several months and introduces audiences to the glamorous Dragona Budjet, one half of a removals company called Drag ‘n’ Drop. When her partner fails to show up for their latest job, she’s at the end of tether and instead entertains those watching with her biting wit, dramatic songs and quantum thinking.
“The best drag artists are not only very talented, but they have to be to some extent delusional,” says Ri.
“What I love about drag is that it’s a great space for protest and you can be whatever you want to be. So, Dragona is clinging to her own identity, which is rooted in that familiar world of Lily Savage, but she wants to move it to a more transgressive space. She sings, she plays music, she’s funny, and she conducts science experiments involving audience participation.
“I love the idea of this having an educational impact. In fact, and I’ve been really stubborn about this, the climax of the tour will be a date at the Science Museum in March – that will be such a blast!”
Having secured Arts Council funding for Drag ‘n’ Drop!, Ri has been able to work with a host of organisations and venues, including the LGBTQIA+ youth projects Breakout Youth and Freedom, and the charity Pride In Stem, which has advised on themes of quantum physics and LGBTQIA+ representation in STEM subjects. Ri also thanks writing development agency ArtfulScribe, writer/performer/director CJ Turner-McMullan and Apricity theatre company, G(end)er Swap, makeup artist Vince Ugly, the Exeter Phoenix, the Alma Tavern & Theatre, Bristol and Lighthouse.
Tickets go on pre-sale to Lighthouse Friends only from Wednesday 23 August and on general sale from Friday 25 August at https://www.lighthousepoole.co.uk.
For details of Lighthouse Friends visit https://www.lighthousepoole.co.uk/support-lighthouse/.