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A chat with… “queer cabaret” artiste Bridge Markland

THIS WEEK! Bridge Markland seeks to arouse sexualities of all stripes by combining drag, a lesbian coming-out story and erotic audience interaction: "Gender and sex are fluid."

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Photo by Dirk Holtkamp

For 25 years, performer Bridge Markland has been defying sex, gender and genre with a cut-and-paste style of cabaret that incorporates drag performances, lip-syncing, pop and classical music, and personal texts.

Based in Berlin, she has entertained and challenged audiences both here and abroad. Her most recent work, Let’s Talk About Sex – a collaboration with Stuttgart-based saxophonist Nikola Lutz – uses drag, a lesbian coming-out story and erotic audience interaction to create a sultry “queer cabaret show”. It’s showing at English Theatre from July 16-18.

So, Let’s Talk About Sex. What is it like?

There’s a lot of drag performances, along with erotic texts, stuff that I wrote – either poetry, which is more erotic and not too explicit, or prose that I wrote that is actually extremely explicit. Then we feed the audience with fruit, very erotically, and I transform into many different beings, creatures, female and male beings… It goes beyond a lot of boundaries, heterosexual and also gay and lesbian boundaries, because Nikola and I are both bisexual so we have a very wide range of interests.

Is it difficult to throw different types of sexuality together?

The main problem is that minorities need to find their own safe spaces because they are pushed out of the majority. When they find their safe spot, they like to put the fence even higher themselves. And then they say, “If you cross our boundaries, then you don’t belong with us.” I can understand it to a certain extent, but it’s always been characteristic of me to be a boundary pusher – there is a reason I call myself “Bridge”. I cross certain gender boundaries, language boundaries.

How do you think about gender in terms of your performance?

I do use stereotypes in my performances but only to deconstruct them: I transform them into something else. A lot of times, I like to use different things that you would read as female and male, and mix them together in a playful way.

This is my own ideal for my personal life, as well… I’m already perceived as male a lot when I wear jeans and a t-shirt. People don’t even look for my boobs. Because I’ve been doing so much gender performance, I do have a male strut in jeans. From the queer world, I’m perceived as a lesbian. Women are always interested in me. I’m very interesting to gay men as well. They see me behaving like a man, but I don’t have a penis.

I’ve gone out with several bisexual men, which can be problematic because of the confusion that goes on with bisexual people, but I can relate to that because I am one myself. But I don’t really care. You have to reassess the boundaries over and over, though. Gender and sex are fluid.

LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX | July 16-18, 20:00