“An incredibly moving reflection on queer art, drag, and perfectionism…

Shehrzadae Moeed’s “June” is a powerful love letter to drag, whilst reflecting on the toils of artistic perfection. Stephen Ledger gives a convincing performance as ex-drag queen Billy/Miss June who, owing to reoccurring bouts of arthritis, becomes increasingly frustrated when unable to perform like he/she used to. Praise must be given to the direction of Maddie Hurley and Molly Knox who, coupled with Ledger’s delivery, successfully chart this development. Between Miss June’s bold confidence in the opening number and portrayals of Billy, a broken performer turning to the bottle, the character growth is carefully considered and sustained.

Throughout the piece, Ledger gives us insights into his character’s thoughts and feelings. Elevated by the intimate black box setting, Ledger’s mastery of proxemics allows us to share this space with him. I particularly enjoyed his moments of direct address to the audience, thereby allowing us to form a connection with the character. There are times these asides are rushed, impeding on our connection with him. We see this, most notably, when Billy meets with a past flame, during which he looks to the audience for his aside and shouts “F**k!”. Whilst this moment has the potential to be funny, I cannot help but wonder whether Ledger is trying too hard to channel Phoebe Waller Bridge’s ‘Fleabag’ such that the authenticity of Billy’s character is lost (albeit only briefly).

I was equally impressed by the way Ledger charts his character’s diminishing confidence throughout the piece, as the arthritis begins to take its toll. When Ledger falls to the ground, for instance, these moments are wrought with tension and tragedy. I will suggest his character falls over a few too many times, which can detract from the drama and instead feel like a comically swooning Jane Austen heroine (think Louisa Musgrove fainting in ‘Persuasion’ and you won’t be far off). But all jests aside, it is during these moments of vulnerability that Ledger really comes into his own, effectively communicating Billy’s distress and consistently tugging on the audience’s heartstrings.

Contrasting with these pathos-filled moments, Ledger exudes confidence and charisma when transitioning to his drag persona, Miss June. This allows for some excellent variation between the two. I will say that Ledger’s received pronunciation means that the difference between Billy and June is occasionally lost. Whilst I understand the piece’s aim is to try and find authenticity within the performance of drag, sometimes I am left wanting more of the more performative aspects (“go girl give us nothing”). Perhaps I’ve been watching too much Drag Race.

While we’re on the topic, it’s hard (nigh impossible) to talk about drag without referring to the costume department. Brought to you by Stephen Ledger (he’s a busy guy), Maddie Hurley, and drag queen Critical Darling, the dazzling costumes help to bring the charismatic queen to life (the navy-blue dress being a particular high point). This made the transitions between the characters all the more seamless and poignant, as we crosscut between the performative, glamour of June, to the harsher reality of Billy’s loneliness and alcoholism.

I am sure any blips I’ve mentioned are a product of ‘first show jitters’, and will no doubt be ironed out in future performances. Overall “June” is an incredibly moving reflection on queer art, drag, and perfectionism, brought to life by Moeed’s moving lyricism, Ledger’s compelling performance, and glamorous costume design.

By Josh Goodwin

June will continue to perform on the 22nd to the 26th of August at 12:30 (pm) in V236 – Greenside @Infirmary St.