Drag Race Down Under review: raunchy, ridiculous watch that makes a corker of an addition to the franchise
This latest Drag Race spin-off takes the franchise's award-winning format and sticks a blue, kangaroo twist on it, Lauren Morris writes.
G'Day mate! Throw another shrimp on the barbie and get ready for the constant barrage of Australian puns coming your way in RuPaul's Drag Race Down Under – the latest international spin-off to come from the hit reality franchise.
With RuPaul's (or rather KangaRuPaul as he's referred to in episode one) plan for world drag domination going accordingly, it was only a matter of time until the Glamazon made her way the Eastern Hemisphere and she couldn't have picked a more perfect moment. With the latest series of Drag Race UK and Drag Race US having recently ended, our Australasian cousins are picking up the tongue-popping baton and ensuring we don't go a single weekend without Mama Ru strutting onto our screens.
Arriving on BBC iPlayer for UK fans on Sunday 2nd May (a day after the show's Australian debut), Drag Race Down Under follows the franchise format to the letter. We have 10 queens from across Australia and New Zealand in the RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under cast, RuPaul presenting with Michelle Visage reprising her judging duties, a stellar line-up of celebrity judges and a typical runway-heavy season premiere with the queens doing a hometown-themed look challenge.
While the show's structure may be similar to the other Drag Race spin-offs we've seen, the (mainly) polished queens bring their own culture, comedic flair and cutting comments to the competition, giving it a clear Australian-New Zealand identity. Within the first two minutes of the series premiere, the BBC's bleep button has already been working overtime, with Melbourne's Art Simone – the first contestant to step foot in the work room – dropping the f-bomb three times during her entrance, and it doesn't stop there.
As well as the hilarious spouting of expletives throughout the episode, we're also treated to some of the bluest jokes the franchise has ever seen (and that's saying something for Drag Race). The Australasian queens aren't afraid to get crude, rude and down right dirty in their series – filmed without any COVID restrictions in the mainly coronavirus free New Zealand.
Down Under's contestant line-up is hugely impressive considering this is the show's very first series and includes queens with some of the best names I've ever heard of, from Auckland's Elektra Shock to Melbourne's Karen From Finance and New Zealand's Kita Mean. There's also an abundance of drama within the first episode before the queens even leave the workroom, with Kita Mean and Anita Wigl'It – two contestants who usually perform as a duo back in Auckland – realising that they've both been invited onto the show but not before Kita has completely ripped into her business partner behind her back.
That's not even the most awkward moment in the episode's first 10 minutes as it turns out Elektra Shock also knows Kita and Anita – in fact, they're her bosses at the local drag club back at home. "I hope she hasn't been pinching from the costume racks, 'cause she'll get found out," Art Simone says in her testimonial before the camera focuses on a stony-faced Elektra.
It only gets more entertaining from there, with one of the queen's suffering a major wardrobe malfunction ("a full back door blow out"), the contestants providing super shady commentary in their confessionals and an appearance from New Zealand's Oscar-winning director and actor Taika Waititi, who doesn't seem to fully realise what he's got himself into until he's watching the queens audition for a drag-inspired parody of Thor. Not to mention the judging panel, which for the first time ever in the history of Drag Race features an out-of-drag RuPaul – "A dingo ate my make up," he tells a made-up version of himself. While seeing RuPaul in full glorious drag is often one of the highlights of the show, it's very lockdown to show up completely bare-faced on camera, whether it's for TV or a Zoom meeting.
We haven't even touched on the lewks which, judging by the series premiere, are set to be just as ridiculous and campy as ever, with the queens making their runway debuts dressed as black swans, massive prawns and a full on sheep for the hometown theme. In the words of RuPaul, everybody say baaa!
This latest addition to the Drag Race universe (the DRU) draws on some of the best elements of Drag Race but gives it a signature Down Under twist, bringing raunchy humour to the forefront and dropping frequent references to the outback. A truly entertaining watch, Drag Race Down Under is perfect for fans and those desperately wanting to shoot over to COVID-free New Zealand.