For JK Rowling, the call is coming from inside the house. The “Harry Potter” author might spout transphobia on social media and her own website, but the invention that gave her such a large platform might also just contain the greatest antidote to her hate. The one remaining ingredient? The fiendish drag imaginations of Elsa Touche, Intensive Claire and the mononymous Otter, the trio of Fraudway productions.
Trans, ally artists make their own Harry Potter art, regardless of what JK Rowling thinks
“Harry Poofter and the Chamber of Secretions,” which opened Thursday, Aug. 4, at Oasis, asserts that Rowling doesn’t have a monopoly on artistic creation or meaning making. The “queer clapback drag parody,” which envisions its hero (Vanilla Meringue) as a trans character, finds the tension and ripeness and bluster and pageantry in the original series and distends them like an anatomically correct balloon, until they pop in a burst of confetti and a blast of stage fog.
There’s a plot, but don’t worry too much about it. In “Poofter,” drag is somehow both the problem — “Hagwarts has become overrun with practitioners of the drag arts” — and the solution. Concentrate more on character names; just hearing them spoken aloud is worth the price of admission: Hermanly Grindr (Claire) and Vaginny Wheezy (Lisa Frankenstein), Faghagrid (Lucinda Puss) and Professor Cockfart (Jubilee, also a mononym).
Performers live up to the names’ promise. Puss’ eye makeup is architectural. Every blink is an event. As Albus Dumboldwhore, unveiling a Tina Turner drag persona, Coco Buttah swishes fringe trim back and forth with combustion engine power. Frankenstein’s Vaginny is each scene’s lit fuse, a comic performer of such confidence and freaky energy that the way she shimmies and deadpans makes the whole show a darker and stranger place.
Then there’s Jef Valentine, a dead ringer for Anjelica Huston in severe makeup and severer baritone. If his two credited characters, Professor Snap and Luscious Malformed, seem interchangeable, he can cut the stage with a roll of the eyes or a sneer that suggests there’s something both very tasty and very yucky in his mouth. He can make jazz hands into a deadly weapon lying in wait.
If “Poofter” is 90 minutes of material taking up two hours of space, it still gleefully punctures the pomp of its source material. It’s incredibly satisfying to hear Minerva MacGonnagurrrrrl (Touche) repeatedly snap at her pupils as “you little s—s.”
But “Poofter” also unearths some imagination possibilities in “Potter” as well. Is squawking outrage really so far away from frothy arousal, after all? And why couldn’t all that father-son friction between DragKing Malformed (Dot Comme) and Luscious boil over into something transgressive?
When, after a full act of trying, Harry finally succeeds in telling peers and teachers that he is actually a she, the lip sync that ensues, to “I Am What I Am,” is a moment of liberation. Harry, now Harriet, changes costume to reveal a lavender cape with tiger stripes over a nude-colored, rhinestone-bedazzled bodysuit. Flaring that cape, Meringue invites all the witches out there, of every gender orientation, to ride on her coattails into a better Hogwarts — a Hagwarts — and a better world of muggles.
M“Harry Poofter and the Chamber of Secretions”: Written, directed and produced by Elsa Touche, Intensive Claire and Otter. Through Aug. 27. Two hours. $30-$50. Oasis, 298 11th St., SF 415-795-3180. www.sfoasis.com