The Power of Four at Two Brewers review: ‘Proof there’s no place like home’

A drag queen performs to a packed nightclub
Mary Mac at the Two Brewers (Image: Licklist)

Attitude’s James Hodge heads to south London’s home of drag — The Two Brewers — for the legendary Power of Four Sunday extravaganza.

It’s a rainy Sunday evening at the beginning of the year, a time for change and resolutions. However, commitment levels are already waning as work restarts, the weather worsens and the dark nights continue.

Sometimes you hunger for the familiar, and at the Two Brewers, Clapham’s iconic LGBTQ+ bar and club, the house is packed with fellow revellers for The Power of Four, a weekly event that to many locals feels like home. With free entry before 6pm, this weekend staple offers an evening of four drag shows punctuated with classic queer LGBTQ+ music sets. But where this cabaret caper differs from others is its acts — these are arguably London’s best of the best.

Indeed, this writer, who started life as a baby gay working behind the Brewers’ bar 16 (eek!) years ago, remembers many of the legends of yore: the phenomenal Kandi Kane Baxter, the brilliant Miss Jason, and the legendary whore of Hampstead Heath herself, Sandra.

“For performers, working here is a career highlight” – Mary Mac

For Mary Mac, who performs a double show this week as Sandra is sadly unwell, the Brewers is the spot for cabaret in the capital.

A drag queen with yellow hair and an orange dress holds a red fan and smiles
“When I first moved to London, I used to come to the Brewers to watch the iconic drag queens long before I was one,” says Mary Mac (Image: Licklist)

“When I first moved to London, I used to come to the Brewers to watch the iconic drag queens long before I was one,” she says. “For performers, working here is a career highlight — you’ve worked your way right to the top of the scene.”

The Two Brewers is impressively packed with a very mixed crowd from across the queer spectrum. A couple flirt adorably by the bar; staff from Soho’s Halfway To Heaven toast a well-deserved work night out; some of the London Stags chatter about fixtures for the month ahead; and two elderly Americans excitedly share that they have come to Clapham specially to visit the venue.

There’s a mixture of old faces from back in the day and a constant flow of newcomers. One old timer, the boss himself, Jimmy Smith, has been working at the Brewers for more than 20 years, and it is clear that he absolutely loves the place and its people. “The Two Brewers has been serving the LGBT+ community for over 40 years!” he tells me proudly.

“We have a real sense of belonging here” – Two Brewers manager Jimmy Smith

He’s happy to share the secret of its success. “We have a real sense of belonging here. We have a schedule of events throughout the year that we know people love — New Year, Eurovision, Halloween… We raise thousands every year for charity. We host endless social groups — dance groups, sports, comedy, theatre… you name it, we do it! There’s something for everyone. I love that if you come to the Brewers, there’s always something going on, always a face in the crowd you know, but equally, we are always innovating and thinking about how we can welcome new faces.”

Two smiling men in a nightclub
Two Brewers manager Jimmy Smith (left) and his partner Andrew Lawton (Image: Licklist)

While many of us are a little jaded from the night before, from the moment we enter the venue, the music hits fast and hard, and hangovers are swiftly forgotten. The excellent DJ Amy LaQueefa plays what can only be described as a camp-as-tits set that soon has everybody moving. We are treated to everything from obscure Abba track ‘Swinging Rock and Roll’ to Shania Twain’s ‘I’m Gonna Getcha Good’; and from Atomic Kitten’s debut ‘Right Now’ all the way to Eurovision favourite ‘Love Shine a Light’ by Katrina and the Waves. It’s an upbeat, good-time set, full of glitter-coated fun.

Sundays at the Two Brewers “remain a highlight all these years on”

Finally, the show begins, with drag darling Mary Mac donning a spectacular orange and pink frilled number. Mac is so popular because her act is essentially timeless. It draws on the best of drag history while feeling funny, fresh and relevant — all with a distinct Mary Mac stamp to proceedings.

A busy crowd of people at a nightclub
The Two Brewers crowd (Image: Licklist)

She opens with a melodramatic rendition of ‘I Who Have Nothing’ — a cabaret standard delivered note-perfectly — and follows with a series of other classics including ‘Your Song’ and ‘Don’t Cry Out Loud’. Then the shenanigans begin: an Abba medley is delivered with uncanny Cher vocals; a Steps hit is reimagined as ‘Better Best Be Bottom’ — a series of funny Grindr anecdotes; and the tunes of Andrew Lloyd Webber are reimagined as being played by a Scottish Highland folk band. And of course, what is a Mary Mac performance without the hilarious, high-energy super medley ‘The Mary Mac Attack’? (You already know the words…)

Mac’s second set is a sing-along that brings the now-drunken crowd together into a bawdy chorus. You can’t help but smile — Sundays at the Two Brewers remain a highlight all these years on, and still inspire camp joy and fun. Proof that there really is no place like home…

The Power of Four is held every Sunday, 5pm-2am at The Two Brewers, Clapham, South London.

This feature appears in issue 357 of Attitude magazine, available alongside 15 years of back issues on the free Attitude app.

Andrew Scott on the cover of Attitude issue 358
Andrew Scott on the cover of Attitude issue 357 (Image: Ramon Christian/Attitude)

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