Arts·Pride

Sex, subversion and self-acceptance: 'Peter Pansexual' flies you to a campy adult Neverland

This ain't Disney. Glam Gam Productions' sex-fuelled Peter Pan reimagining is all camp on the surface — but it has an important message at its heart.

Glam Gam Productions' sex-fuelled Peter Pan reimagining has an important message at its heart

Smee and Captain Hooker. (Glam Gam Productions)

When Michael McCarthy finished his undergraduate degree in Communication Studies at Concordia University, he was at a loss.

"I had studied drama, but I wasn't really into Shakespeare and that kind of jazz," he recalls. That was 2006, and he and partners in crime Julie Paquet and Sarah Murphy decided to form a new cabaret troupe. "We weren't really happy with the existing platforms for burlesque at the time. We wanted something more queer, and a lot more vaudeville." And thus, Glam Gam Productions was born.

Their shows, which first launched as part of the Montreal Fringe Festival, were instant hits. "It's been a bit overwhelming — the success was immediate and we haven't stopped," says McCarthy. With titles like Tits the Season and If Looks Can Kill...They Will!, audiences know what they are going to get with a Glam Gam Production: a sexualized, campy riff on age-old fairy tales.

Their latest, Peter Pansexual, originally began as a rapidfire production last summer. The troupe called on anyone interested to throw their names into consideration, and after selections were drawn from a hat, the newly-formed ensemble had to cook up a cabaret in 24 hours. "Peter Pan evokes the classic story as it was done by Disney. Of course, it's problematic — pitting women against women and also the use of Indigenous characters. In our version, Peter is pansexual and so sleeps with everyone; Captain Hook is now Captain Hooker, who runs a brothel for pirates."

Twinkerbell. (Glam Gam Productions)

The city of Montreal was also a point of inspiration. "Montreal is like a Neverland. Its cheaper rents make it a haven for artists who don't want to grow up. And while the city is old, it has a youthful quality to it." McCarthy says that part of the edge to the latest Glam Gam shows is the very immediacy of the creative process. "When you first start something, there is a raw energy to it. It has this fresh, entirely new quality to it. Rehearsals make it better, but they also make it more familiar and change it. When you get a show that's created so quickly — I guess you could call it binge creativity — that fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants energy is different. Our audiences come in with a different set of expectations, which is part of the fun of the shows."

Our goal is to challenge what it is to be sexy — accepting our bodies, our weirdnesses and our flaws.- Michael McCarthy, Glam Gam Productions co-founder

McCarthy likens the onstage chemistry to the Dreamlanders — the group of actors who performed in John Waters' films, beginning in the 60s. "Waters collected a group of people who were willing to do just about anything, and many of them had no formal training. When you mix up people who are trained actors with those who have no training, it can create a powerful mix. Waters always appreciated different variations of talent."

"Glam Gam is a collection of misfits. Many of us come from small towns and were bullied growing up — be it for our sexualities, gender identities, shapes or sizes. Our whole lives, we were told that we were not good enough to be considered sexy. When you're told something enough, you internalize it and believe it's true yourself. Our goal is to challenge what it is to be sexy. Part of that process was to say, 'Fuck it' — accepting our bodies, our weirdnesses and our flaws and not being afraid to do so naked in front of an audience."

The full cast. (Glam Gam Productions)

"People want to see themselves represented onstage — which is not often the case with Hollywood. So many times we have audience members approach us after shows and thank us for subverting dominant narratives, showcasing alternative body types as sexy and for just being ourselves. That's the most important part: being ourselves and having fun. Because sex is fun, right? I think people tend to forget that and take themselves too seriously."

Peter Pansexual. June 1-16. Café Cléopatra. Montreal. www.glamglam.com

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