THE cabaret performer and comedian, who won the fifth series of popular television programme RuPaul’s Drag Race, reveals why performing in drag is so liberating

JINKX Monsoon claims she has an affinity with the UK as she embarks on a run of shows here.

“I’m very pale and I don’t tan well,” she says, displaying the kind of quick wit that fans of her television appearances and live shows have come to expect. Dig deeper, though, and Jinkx – real name Jerick Hoffer – really does appreciate Britain for a number of reasons.

“I really enjoy the culture over here,” she says. “There are a lot of similarities between American and British culture, but I really like the fact that in the UK the level of tolerance and open-mindedness is a little big higher. There are just aren’t as many conservative people in the UK as there are in the US. That sets me off on the right foot because I don’t have to worry so much about offending conservative sensibilities.”

Jinkx is also a huge admirer of British comedy and especially Absolutely Fabulous. Her stage name is an ode to Jennifer Saunders’ character in the show, Edina Monsoon. Jinkx has teamed up with composer Major Scales to create The Vaudevillians, a “bawdy” musical based on the exploits of a fictional 1920s band. The fantastical back story of the group sees them buried alive by an avalanche in Antarctica only for global warming to thaw them out in the present day. They discover that contemporary artists including Madonna, Cyndi Lauper and Britney Spears have appropriated their music and set about trying to reclaim their sound, in the most flamboyant style imaginable.

In the context of the 1920s, famous pop songs take on different meanings. The Vaudevillians’ version of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, for instance, is an ode to the suffragette movement and Toxic is the song they wrote when their “dear friend” Marie Curie died. While that tenuous narrative is unlikely to win any awards for storytelling, The Vaudevillians is played almost entirely for laughs – which is always Jinkx’s primary aim.

“What I enjoy most is the sound of laughter,” she says. “When a joke lands well, and the audience gets it, that’s the most rewarding thing you can experience on stage.” The drag artist admits her mode of humour can be “crude and crass”, but she always tries to inject intelligence into her shows. “Audiences may come with preconceptions, but they will see drag shows can be anything – a theatrical spectacle or an intellectual experience,” she says.

Crucially, too, Jinkx has the ability – and humility – to poke fun at herself. “Mostly my material is self-deprecating. There are very few jokes taking the micky out of anyone but myself.” Drag has been a great outlet for Jinkx, whose creator Jerick identifies as “non-binary” and prefers to go by the pronoun “they” in real life.

“In life I try to be positive, so that’s why I created Jinkx to be so foul-mouthed and sassy. Even though I always try to be nice, that doesn’t mean things don’t frustrate me or that rage about the state of the world doesn’t build up within me.

“The great thing is I’m able to get that out on stage when I play Jinkx. I don’t carry it out into my day-to-day life or allow it to be disruptive. I’m able to get all my demons out on stage.”

Jinkx describes the art of drag as a “political statement”, meaning she believes the performance form can help to challenge preconceptions about gender. There is an increasing awareness that gender is complex, not binary, and that any given person can exist anywhere on the spectrum between male and female.

“I hope people will go away from my show realising gender is fluid,” says Jinkx. “It doesn’t matter what genitalia you’re born with – the only person who can decide what gender you are is you.

“You should walk away feeling you’re in control of your own destiny and of your own gender. I do that.” The Vaudevillians – and Jinkx’s work in general – is a delicate balance between political pertinence and laugh-out-loud lunacy. At heart of it all, though, is Jinkx’s love of the stage.

“Performing is the thing I enjoy most in the world,” she says. “And that includes video games and sex.”

Jinkx Monsoon: The Vaudevillians, The Old Market, Hove, tonight, 8pm. For more information visit theoldmarket. com or call 01273 201801