The London gay scene is iconic not only for its drag culture, but also for its bizarre queer comedy shows. At the top of that billing are the Sex Shells, who have been making massive waves not only in the UK, but overseas.
We were lucky enough to catch up with the gang to talk about their upcoming London and Edinburgh shows, and their plans to bring the troupe to a wider audience.
Not only are they hilarious, they’re hot! Let’s get ourselves familiar with them first off though.
Doctor Le strange
That Woman Rosie
Hi guys! So, before we get into it, would you like to introduce yourselves, along with your favourite Spice Girl, to our readers
DT: Dom Top, the masc4mascara psychotic pop princess of the group. Fave Spice Girl: Geri Horner née Halliwell. As a fellow redhead, I have to show solidarity.
TWR: That Woman Rosie: pianist and sequinned subversive feminist. Favourite spice girl: Geri/Ginger.
LS: Doctor Le Strange – flowing-haired, smoky-voiced siren with the biggest ruff collection in the business. Favourite Spice Girl: Mz Halliwell. I found her seminal solo album Schizophonic in a bargain bin in a Jersey thrift store as a teenager and my life changed forever.
CM: Calum Mac: BAD TWINK. Favourite spice girl: Mel B, much like myself she’s a luvly northern lass that luvs animal print.
So, what exactly is Sex Shells?
TWR: Queer comedy cabaret.
CS: Originally it was a shell lying on the beach that you could used to engage in filthy conversations with strangers, a sketch that didn’t work and was never used again but we kept the name.
DT: To quote one of our reviews, we are “the gayest things to have graced a British stage”
LS: Part sketch show, part girl group, part Swarovski crystal. We’re like the love child of Monty Python, the Sugababes, and Liberace.
You're quite big on the London comedy circuit, how has that experience been so far?
LS: It’s been a lovely, demented whirlwind. In a couple of years we’ve gone from performing for free in the armpit of an East London straight bar to standing ovations at the National Theatre’s Riverside Stage! We are humbled and we’d like four triple gin and tonics please.
TWR: We love our London audiences! Performing at The Glory always feels like coming home.
CM: It’s been bloody great! The best response I’ve experienced was my mum’s who loved it so much she keeps sending me shells in the post!
DT: Our London audiences are very expressive. One girl laughed so hard that she peed her pants – and she showed us the puddle on the floor to prove it!
You've received rave reviews for the act at places such as The Glory, well done! What is the process like to put the act together?
CM: Well it’s a delicate procedure, you’ll be in the shower one day and think of about that time you ejaculated at the thought of your childhood biology teacher and the next thing you know you’re rubbing your thighs, moaning and singing it to the tune of Chaka Khan.
LS: We all truffle around deep in our diseased psyches and then proudly show each other whatever glistening fungus we’ve managed to unearth. It’s exciting – you never know whether it’ll be a sketch about talking cigarettes, a Phantom of the Opera song about nervous breakdowns, a Disney showstopper about Grindr, or a hats-and-canes Broadway classic about selfies.
DT: When we’re doing our monthly new writing shows at the Glory, we go away for a fortnight to write our new songs, then spend the last two weeks rehearsing, choreographing and congratulating ourselves prior to the show. We used to write together as a group but that mostly ended up with us just getting drunk and writing utterly crass songs about vulvas and Fred West.
TWR: For my part, I arrange the music and lead some of our music rehearsals. I've also started writing a few original songs which we're trying out alongside our covers. Then, right before a show, I like to freak out about music stands and piano lights before calming down with a pre-show tumbler of wine.
How did you all meet?
CM: Somewhere in East London. Could have been that flat above the kebab shop, the one with the black mold. Or that one under the bridge with spoons in the sink. Or in H&M, I can’t remember.
DT: I met Calum and Le Strange on the East London club scene. We were all pretty heavy partiers and we figured there was some humour to be mined out of our shared experiences in that area. We all love attention and we all love singing, so we started doing a few sketches and acapella songs. Then LeStrange brought That Woman Rosie into our lives and things got even more musical…
TWR: Le Strange and I were already friends. One day I was moaning about how I wasn't singing or playing piano much anymore (I'm a screenwriter/playwright by day) and he said, "Why don't you join Sex Shells?" So I did. Now I feel like I've known all the Shells forever.
LS: I met all the Shells (That Woman Rosie included) at scandalous smoky fall-of-Rome-style soirees. To misquote Carrie Fisher, we took our broken tarts and made them into arts.
You've just come off a tour, and you've got a new summer show coming up. How is that going to be different? Are you writing?
TWR: Most of the latest new writing has happened over the last six months as we've gathered material to try out for our spring and summer runs. Our Glory show in May will feature the best bits of all that new writing, while our month-long Edinburgh run at Underbelly will feature our favourite numbers from the past three years. It will be our longest run yet and we're going to live together for a month. And try not to party too hard after every show. So that will be different.
LS: We’ve got some absolute bangers from our new writing season that we’re polishing up for our runs, but yes – we’re working on a mind-altering medley that we’ll be debuting in May!
DT: And don’t forget brand new costumes! It wouldn’t be a Sex Shells show without hundreds of glue-gunned crystals.
You've got a show coming up in Edinburgh in August too, which is exciting! Are you looking to expand and take the show overseas in the future?
DT: Hell yes! I’m always trying to copy Shakira’s career and I’d love to do a show entirely in Spanish or Portuguese so we can crack the Latin market.
TWR: Yes, we would love to take the show overseas! Who wants us? Get in touch. Our rider is four bottles of cava per hour on stage.
LS: Always! I think after the last year, America might be ready for our special brand of glittering insanity.
CM: Yaas! We can’t wait for Edinburgh! My parents stay there for the full month every year in a caravan on the outskirts and have already said they’ll to leave a stack of flyers in the information kiosk and a poster on their awning. Hopefully if we do a show in the US they’ll stay at home.
Where do you get your influences from?
DT: For me, it’s comedy shows like Smack the Pony, pop divas, musicals and, in terms of costuming, prostitutes.
LS: I love what a dizzyingly weird pool of influences we draw on. We’re filthy guttersnipes, but we’ll nod to Jane Austen and Shakespeare as well as Barbara Cartland, class A drugs, and douching. The central thread of our Glory run last year was a mash-up of ABBA and the work of eighteenth-century artist William Hogarth – it was called The Gaylet’s Progress.
CM: Personally I’m most inspired by my torturous and lonely day-to-day existence.
Bulge or butt?
TWR: Bulge, I guess?
DT: I’ve got the butt, so you supply the bulge
LS: Butt me no butts, I’m bulge bulge bulge bulge please.
CM: Both! But only when they’re on the same side.
Britney or Whitney?
DT: THE LEGENDARY MISS BRITNEY SPEARS.
TWR: Whitney. (Sorry, Dom Top.)
LS: Whitney of course! I’m a serial Whitney rewriter – I’ve done ‘I Will Always Love You’ at the self-service supermarket checkout machine and ‘Nothing’ as an uplifting procrastimasturbation ballad.
CM: Yeah, it’s got to be Whitney.
Mesh or leather?
LS: Leather… for diaphanous accents I like to use chiffon.
TWR: I prefer sequins.
DT: Both. All of my costumes consist of a combination of the two, so I can’t choose just one.
Where can people find you if they want to contact you?
DT: You can probably find us slumped over the bar in a drunken stupor at The Glory, most evenings, but our social media handles are:
And our WEBSITE: www.sexshells.co.uk
And if people want to purchase tickets for your show, where can they find them?
DT: You can get tickets for our upcoming shows at www.outsavvy.com/sex-shells
We have a two week run at The Glory, starting on Friday 3rd May until Sunday May 12th. Then we’ll be performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival from 3rd – 27th August.
Thanks guys! We've linked you to a video below to get a feel of what the Sex Shells do. Enjoy!