Dancing Bear, an exploration of faith, sexuality and gender identity through catchy pop tunes are taking to the stage in Manchester. Drag queen and singing sensation Divina De Campo is joining the multi-talented cast to premiere the show.
Known for her appearances in both The Voice and most recently BBC 1’s All Together Now, Divina is performing in the verbatim musical and showcasing her experiences with religion and gender. “It’s a piece which I describe as a discussion between Christianity and the LGBTQ+ community,” she said. “It sounds heavy, but it’s absolutely not. It’s a cabaret musical so there is lots of singing, dancing and joy.”
Directed by Jamie Fletcher, during the show five performers speak about their experiences and viewpoints coming from different backgrounds in Christianity, and how that has played a part in their lives as LGBTQ+ people.
Growing up, Divina struggled with her sexuality and had a tricky time at school. “I was always very flamboyant,” she said. “It was very obvious to everybody at school so it was tough, I really enjoyed school I just didn’t enjoy some of the people there.” However, her experience in the church was a lot easier as people were very supportive of her as a person. “Sexuality was never really talked about in the church as a whole, but there were a few times I’d been to religious events and they had gay speakers, and at Sunday school they’d occasionally touch on the topic and it was always very supportive,” she said. “However I am aware that is not the case in the churches of wider organisations.”
Divina has had an extensive career in drag which all spurred from her childhood when she loved to dress up in girls clothes. “Whenever we played dress up, I’d always be the wicked witch or the princess,” she said. “From about 14 onwards I started to explore sexuality and when I was about 18 every time I went to a costume party I’d go as a girl, such as Christina Aguilera or Lara Croft.” After finishing her university degree she met her husband who encouraged him to do drag. “He told, you’re a dancer, you can sing and you’re almost funny,” she laughed. “So he encouraged me to do it and I did my first performance at an arts event in a little mining village in north Wales, wearing a blue cocktail frock and a black feather headdress.”
Divina’s singing career stemmed from the same time she realised she loved to dress up. “I remember being 3 or 4 and during assembly when we were banging out those good old Jesus chart-toppers, the headteacher said ‘oh we’ve got a little Pavarotti in the audience’ whilst looking at me,” she said. “So I’ve always sung, I was in the church choir, did amateur dramatics and this is going to be my first professional musical and I am so excited.”
Pushing the narrative are a multitude of original pop tunes, and all apart from one have been written for the show. “There is one song that Becky Owen sings called New Lungs which is like a hymn, but for me, it’s an incredibly beautiful moment,” Divina said. “It’s such a gorgeous song and there are loads of those moments throughout the show and I am so excited that I get to join in that number.”
In between filming for All Together Now, drag gigs and ahead of a trip to Vienna to perform an aria written just for her, Divina is passionate about this production of Dancing Bear that opens in Manchester ahead of a few selected dates across the UK. Emphasising the importance of this glamorous evening of cabaret, Divina explained the “I think people will leave feeling hopeful. It isn’t an attack on anybody, it’s more of a plan for how to make the world a bit more amicable for everybody – through song and dance of course.”
Catch Dancing Bear at the Palace Theatre in Manchester on the 6th and 7th of February, tickets and information can be found here.