Bendy Ben is YUMMY and ICONIC

YUMMY has changed the world of drag cabaret. The new wild new show “YUMMY ICONIC”, that has come to the UK, celebrates and subverts cultural icons, legends, and superstars. YUMMY ICONIC is drag variety at its very best.

credits: Joel Devereux

Bendy Ben is a dancer, choreographer & performance artist, who is based in Melbourne, unceded Wurundjeri country. Featured in works by Australian choreographers, Lucy Guerin, Prue Lang, Melanie Lane, Antony Hamilton, Lee Serle, Sue Healey, Martin del Amo, Narelle Benjamin, & Gideon Obarzanek. As a solo artist, Benjamin often inhabits fantastical dispositions that invite audiences to embrace parallel masculinities and femininities. Presenting solo performances at Chunky Move, Lucy Guerin Inc, Performance Space, National Gallery of Victoria, Mona Museum & New Orleans Biennial. Benjamin has also collaborated with contemporary artists, such as Dylan Martorell, Belle Bassin, Lichen Kelp, and Fayen d’Evie, to develop and perform works presented at leading Australian galleries including the Art Gallery of NSW, Ian Potter Museum of Art, & Heide Museum of Art. He received an Australian Dance Award (2017), Helpmann Award Nomination (2017), and Green Room Award (2016) for his outstanding performance in Lucy Guerin Inc’s ‘The Dark Chorus’. Acclaimed as a performance artist in drag cabaret, Benjamin often plays with the spectacle of camouflage & masks, within egalitarian choreographies of drag. These performance entities have resonated beyond the club scene, leading to commissions at Aesop, Tourism Australia, NGV, Mona Foma & Dark Mofo, ACCA, ACMI. Benjamin graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts in 2008 with a Bachelor of Dance and was the recipient of the inaugural VCA choreographic award in his final year.

Credits: Craig Sugden

YASS met Ben and this is everything we talked about!

YUMMY has become a legendary sensation in the underground club cabaret scene. How did everything start?

YUMMY began back in 2015 with original cast members Valerie Hex, Hannie Helsden, Karen From Finance, Beni Lola, Yana Alana, Jandruze and myself, Bendy Ben. We were all performing independently at the time in contemporary dance, circus, drag and music. James Welsby aka Valerie Hex came up with the idea of putting on a show in Melbourne so we hired out a room above a pub and began piecing together some group numbers and solo acts. We premiered YUMMY at the Toff in Town in Melbourne to a sold-out crowd! I remember the curtain opening and all we could hear was screaming. The room was packed! 

Did you expect the huge popularity and success?

Not at all. Back then we were just so excited to perform and put on a fun show. The growth and trajectory of YUMMY has been amazing and it just goes to show you how amazing and dedicated we all our to our artform.

How do you feel being part of the Underbelly Festival in London?

Amazing! This is our second time and we are having a blast! The Underbelly team are so welcoming and lovely. The front of house staff has nearly learnt our opening choreography and the audiences have been so wonderful. It’s been lovely chatting to them after the show. 

credits: Joel Devereux

When did your career start?

I received a Bachelor of Dance from The Victorian College of The Arts in 2009. Trained as a contemporary dancer I have been working with companies and independent artists in Australia and internationally for the past 13 years. As a solo artist I have presented works for galleries, clubs, private events, festivals and theatres.

How would you describe your work?

My mother was a model for Vogue and many other campaigns and magazines in the 1970’s. My inspiration and referencing of beauty from that time period has definitely informed my drag aesthetic. I love fashion and costume and was very much inspired by 90’s film clips, embodying Bjork in my bedroom with a sheet wrapped around my ceiling fan making a cocoon to writhe in to learning all of Britney’s dances tying fabric around my arm to whirl around.

I’m also interested in how a body can be seen and viewed depending on how it presents itself. Alongside my drag I perform in full covered sequin costumes, these creatures strive to remove social labelling, facial recognition becomes secondary or non-existent so the viewer relies on the overall picture to comprehend form and design. The idea is to let imagination overrule reality.

As written in my bio, Benjamin often inhabits fantastical dispositions that invite audiences to embrace parallel masculinities and femininities. Acclaimed as a performance artist in drag cabaret, Benjamin often plays with the spectacle of camouflage & masks, within egalitarian choreographies of drag. You can read my full bio and see more of what I do here

When did you decide to become part of YUMMY?

I am one of the original cast members and have been there since the first 5,6,7,8!

What is the role of drag in your life?

Drag for me is a vehicle that can transport me out of reality. It’s a place where I can become multiple ultimate forms, its where my imagination is championed. It respects and acknowledges femininity and the woman I look up too while also engaging all my other interests in fashion, body, animal, creature, magic and space.

credits: Joel Devereux

What does this performance mean to you and what shall we expect to see?

It’s such a treat to be performing again post lockdown. This tour, this show is everything! For me, I celebrate musician Roisin Murphy an icon in her own right, performing to one of my favourite songs. I also showcase my skills within the mind body and soul genre! You’ll have to come watch, but let’s just say I might be able to relieve your aches and pains with my delicate tender touch.

What makes this performance special and different?

This is our first post lockdown tour. Its feels very special to be able to travel and perform internationally again.

What is the most difficult part of this performance?

The most difficult part happens back stage! It is a frenzy of super quick costume changes, gluing and pinning wigs. It’s a show in itself!

What has been the most powerful moment you have experienced during all these years?

For me, it’s always chatting to the audience and hearing how it makes them feel. I want people to be comfortable and confident with who they are. Even though I’m performing onstage on a pedestal which often represents these ultimate forms, off stage I am also a human who searches for comfortability, acceptance and empowerment. Performance is one of my gateways to feel these needs but there are so many other ways to find and feel them.

For me having discussions and removing that performance facade you can see that I am just a person who loves what they do. My personal philosophy is that I am no more important than anyone else, I exist in a shared system of individual ability and presence. The audience and performer create the experience together – we don’t exist without each other.

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