Diane Torr: Donald Does Dusty

Drag king and performer Diane Torr explains why she created a theatrical memorial to her late brother, actor and dancer Donald Torr.

My brother, growing up in Mastrick on the outskirts of Aberdeen in the late 1950s and early 1960s, aware of his sexuality but with no representation of gay identity in the neighbourhood, focused on Dusty Springfield. It was Dusty and him on the queer team, and all other Aberdonians on the other side. As his sister, and 15 months younger, I took the role of confidant and appraiser, as judge and jury of his Dusty impersonations. Of course, half the gay population of the UK were singing Dusty songs into hairbrushes, but we didn’t know that.

Donald, like Dusty, was a perfectionist. When my parents were out, he would dress in my mother’s clothes and sashay around her bedroom doing the same exits and entrances, over and over. I would get bored, and Donald would stamp his foot and throw a tantrum because I wasn’t paying attention. Sometimes I would just make stuff up - his hand gesture was more like Dusty’s that time than the time before, for example. Donald first dressed in drag on Hallowe’en, aged six. In another dress of my mother’s, and with his feet barely fitting into the toes of her high heels, he trolled and trailed from one house to the next as we went trick or treating.

I started performing in drag in New York in the 80s, and we often joked on the phone that we would do a performance where we each played the other. This fantasy was never fulfilled. Donald died of AIDS in 1992. The performance is my homage to him, and his determination to escape Mastrick and become a millionaire in London.

CCA, Glasgow, Wed 25-Sat 28 Oct, 7pm.

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