Individually, they’re both well-established on the North East’s drag circuit. Now, Newcastle drag queens Dixie Swallows and Penny Arcade are teaming up for the first of what they hope will be many successful nights at Sunderland’s Quayside Exchange as new double act, Lads and Lashes.
Dixie, also known as Jonmichael Samuels, and Stewie ‘Penny Arcade’ Layton have been firm friends for a couple of years now, and they each have their own signature style of drag. Dixie, the over-the-top campy comedienne, and Penny, the seasoned vet and Drag Idol judge. Now, they’ve decided to come together to create a show for The Quayside Exchange, Wearside’s beautiful grade II-listed venue.
“I was approached by the Quayside Exchange to come on board and create a monthly cabaret night – a night of traditional cabaret entertainment, which also included food and drinks in a wonderful venue,” says Jonmichael, who has been performing as alter-ego Dixie since coming second in Drag Idol last year. “I’ve been performing my one woman show there for five months now and every week it has gotten bigger and seems to have taken on a life of its own. It is such a beautiful venue and such a pleasure to be a part of.”
But how did the idea of a duo come to fruition?
“It all began when Stewie and I became friends after I started DJing at The Bank bar in Newcastle.
(Above: Dixie Swallows)
He came along to my one-woman show at the Quayside Exchange as a friend to support what I was doing. He was really pleased with what I’d produced and seeing the show made him realise what it was that got him into the drag industry in the first place – the passion for entertaining and creating something that people enjoyed.
Stewie was at a cross roads as to where to take Penny, so it seemed a perfect fit that this new venture occurred,” Jonmichael says. “We started speaking about possibly doing something together and the rest you could say just fell into place.”
(Above: Penny Arcade, far right, with fellow Drag Idol judges)
As Penny Arcade, Stewie has been a stalwart of the Newcastle gay scene for the past decade. More recently recognized as a DJ and host, as well as one of the judges of the aforementioned Drag Idol, the contest that discovered Dixie, he is no stranger to cabaret. After a recent step back from performing as Penny, this will be somewhat of a comeback for Stewie. “Five years ago I was lucky enough to have a residency in Marmaris, with my solo show,” he says. “As for duos, about 8 year ago, myself and another drag queen, Ruby Reynolds, toured from Brighton to Edinburgh and hit lots of Prides along the way.
Hopefully Lads and Lashes will have just as much success and be as much fun.”
The show is on Friday October 7 and standard tickets cost £5. For £15, you will get a sparkling reception, a sharing platter of food and table service. Having attended one of the first of Dixie’s shows, I can attest to the quality of not only the act, but also the venue’s hospitality.
The guys describe their show as “above all else an evening of fun.
You can expect to see all the characters and cabaret performances you would expect in a traditional drag queen entertainment show. All the numbers we have chosen are numbers we love to do, just as much as the audience, who seem to demand them time and time again.
It’s very much going to be a Penny and Dixie show so you can expect to see both of us, both individually and together.”
And as for the future, they already have more shows in their sights. “Lads and Lashes are not planning on going anywhere anytime soon,” Stewie says.
“We have already started planning Halloween, Christmas and even started on Valentines shows. This is very much a partnership which we are looking forward to taking as far as possible.”
Said shows include a Frocky Horror Picture Show on November 4, which will encourage audience participation and fancy dress, and a Christmas-themed Stocking Fillers show on December 1.
The first Lads and Lashes show is on Friday October 7 at The Quayside Exchange in Sunderland.
For more information and to book tickets, contact the venue on 0191 5144574 or email email@example.com
Photos: LAH Photography