Good to go ̶
but what on earth am I letting myself in for here?
"So do you just want to look sexy or do you want to go totally over the top?" asks Linda, who's standing in front of me, tape measure around neck, looking and sounding extremely business-like. Linda helps with costume hire at Takaka Drama Society, and she's been given the task of dressing me up as a woman. "Oh, totally over the top of course", I reply, not yet fully aware of what I'm letting myself in for.
Minutes later I'm standing face to face with myself in the mirror, sporting a silky sequin-studded bodice, not unlike Madonna's in "Like a Virgin". It's extremely uncomfortable. "How do I get out of this?" I ask Linda. "How did you get into it?", she replies. Looking round the dressing room I notice Bea's wearing a Marilyn Monroe-like wig, has slipped into a awesomely sexy black dress, and is trying on some stilettos. She looks totally hot. I might not look hot, but I certainly feel it -and sweaty. The bodice prickles and tickles and I'm desperate to get out of it. Deciding to clothe me in something a little more "senior", as she calls it, Linda calls over to two assistants to organise a dress and various accessories. As they start running around me - one of the ladies is already measuring my inside leg - I feel a bit like Julia Roberts in the "Pretty Woman" clothes store scene.
When they're finally finished I hardly recognise myself. I look like a cross between Priscilla Queen of the Desert and the Ugly Sister in Cinderella. Matilda, who's been enjoying dressing up as a princess while all this has been going on, looks at me curiously and says "Look at daddy, he looks like a girl!". Sizing up my makeover, Linda just laughs and says "You look totally deranged!".
I've never been called "deranged" before. But then, I've never dressed in drag before either. I'm putting myself through this ordeal for a good cause though. We're going to the Golden Bay premiere of "Fifty Shades of Grey". The event is billed as "Ladies' Night", a fund-raising event, with an invitation to "Come in drag!"
Unfortunately we don't have enough money on us to pay for the costume hire. We agree to drive to the nearest cashpoint and return before they close at 9 PM. We're just going down the high street, however, when we feel the hire car lurch and skid sideways. We immediately move onto the kerbside, and get out to inspect the vehicle. The tyre on the driver's side is totally flat. Luckily we're close to The Dangerous Kitchen, where earlier that evening we'd enjoyed a delicious gourmet pizza. We go in and ask if we can use the phone.
"Our tyre's just burst" I explain to the waitress, who's not at all surprised to see us again so soon. "I know", she smiles, "we saw you drive past skidding and screeching and wondered what was going on". I call David at the b&b, explain what's happened, and he kindly agrees to drive out and help. While waiting we discuss the expense of a new tyre - something we hadn't factored into our holiday budget "Well", I say smiling, "at least we won't have to pay for the drag costumes, that's 30 Dollars saved!". We've clearly missed the 9 PM deadline, and the theatre doesn't open again for another week. "We could just ask Rae if she'll lend us something", suggests Bea, "she has some pretty dresses". Just this moment David appears outside the pub. With him is one of the ladies from the theatre, carrying our box of costumes. "I saw you drive off with a flat tyre, I was shouting to you to stop", she says, adding "I'm surprised you made it even this far". To be honest we'd not heard a thing, we must have had the car music on too loud. Thanking the lady we pay for the costumes and load them into the car, which David has already jacked up. Changing the wheel, he looks surprised at how small the tyre is. He's right, it's more like something off a wheelbarrow. "Let's hope you don't have to go back up and down Takaka Mountain on this"' he laughs.
It's been fun dressing up in the theatre, and then putting on the clothes at the b&b, much to the delight of our organic farm hosts, David and Fiona. David, I think, is particularly impressed. As I come down the stairs in my pink dress he does a double take and says "Ooh, you look very attractive!". However, I'm secretly dreading the moment I have to appear like this in public. Fiona has lent me her horse riding whip and we shoot some hilarious photos on the lawn, before climbing into the car and heading off into town.
We park the car as near to the cinema as possible - for obvious reasons. I'm just getting out when a vehicle goes past and a guy calls out "Hey darling, show us your a***!" Locking arms together, we head off down the street. I try to walk as naturally as possible – glad l didn't go for high heels. I keep my eyes firmly on the pavement, anxious to avoid any further contact with men. Until we get to the cinema, at least.
Joining the queue at the Village Theatre I notice a few heads turn our way, a general look of surprise on people's faces. To my absolute horror I realise we're the only ones in drag. Rae, who we've become good friends with during our stay in Takaka, writes for the local newspaper and is waiting to take our picture in front of the "50 Shades" banner. She wants to do an article about our travels for Golden Bay Weeky 6 March 2015. Just as we're finishing the photos, an elderly lady approaches. Pointing to my dress she says "Pull it up honey, you need to show more leg!”. I'm not sure whether she's trying to be helpful or just plain teasing.
After buying some raffle tickets we're served complimentary "Mocktails". We also get to choose between a white or dark blank Belgian chocolate. Far too nervous to eat, I stuff mine into the silver handbag hanging rather clumsily from my wrist. Looking around the cinema hall, all I can see is girls, many already giggling after just one sip of alcohol. The only other man in sight is the guy selling popcorn.
Pre-show entertainment includes a special-guest appearance by Takaka's very own Mr Grey, eloquently dressed in bow tie and black suit. "Are you ready?", he asks. "Yes ple-ease!", shouts one excited lady. Grey goes on to explain that all proceeds from the evening are going to the local toy library. "Kids' toys, not adult toys", he adds, grinning. There's a great deal of cackling, catcalling, and general whooping from the audience. And that's before the film’s even started.
By the time it's finally running I feel I'm turning Fifty Shades of Scarlet. - my nylon dress is unbearably uncomfortable. While the action builds up on screen - Miss Steele is already melting in Mr Grey’s arms - all I can think about is how soon I can get out of my costume, so tight it's pinching my stomach. "This dress is killing me"' I whisper to Bea, just as Steele serves Grey a 1.8-meter rope, some masking tape and cable ties. "Pschht!"' she whispers back, "Wait till the interval!"
During the first half a group of girls in front of us can't stop giggling. Some one behind mutters "I don't know what's so funny!". She's right, but maybe they're just not taking the whole thing seriously at all.
As soon as the curtain falls for intermission I hurry off to the gents, thankful for bringing a change of clothing - men's of course. Tugging at my dress I'm horrified to find it's stuck and won't come off in any direction - neither up nor down. Pushing through the crowds coming out of the hall I race back to Bea, who helps undo the straps behind. "You see what women have to go through now, huh?", she laughs. Just as I head off back to the toilets the lady behind whispers "You be careful in there sweetie, some women are using the men's too!"
The leading roles are actually so badly played, it's difficult to know whether you're watching a comedy, tragedy or porno film. I really loved the toughness of Mr Grey in the book, but in the movie he comes over as all soppy, sentimental and colourless. Personally, I can't be bothered to sit through Shades of Grey II and III, just to find out if there's any chemistry between Mr and Miss. There certainly isn't in part I.
Although unlucky in the raffle, we do win a prize for best dressed: A 1.8-meter rope, masking tape and a pack of black UV cable ties.