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WATCH: Strictly Inverness 2024 contestant Darryl Geegan, aka drag queen Venus Guytrap, says past performing experience may be disadvantage when taking to the dancefloor

By Andrew Henderson

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One of this year's Strictly Inverness contestants believes that, if anything, his past experience of performing is actually a disadvantage to his training.

Darryl Geegan works as a nurse, but he can also be seen performing as drag queen Venus Guytrap and as the frontman of the band The Idiotix.

The 32-year-old had offered to perform in Strictly as Venus, but with a gender imbalance among applicants this year he was needed as Darryl rather than his alter-ego.

Venus Guytrap hosted and performed at Highland Pride's Party in the Park in Inverness last summer. Picture: Alexander Williamson
Venus Guytrap hosted and performed at Highland Pride's Party in the Park in Inverness last summer. Picture: Alexander Williamson

It would be easy to think that Darryl may have gone into the process a step ahead because he is used to being on stage in front of crowds, but if anything he feels as though he is a step behind the other 2024 contestants.

"I knew it was going to be challenging, but it has definitely been more challenging than I thought it would be," he said.

"That's good in a way, because it's definitely going to keep me on my toes and it's giving me something to focus on right now in what's a pretty crazy time.

"We are all coming at this as complete novices, beginner ballroom dancers, but the choreography is pretty challenging in a lot of ways. I won't say too much, but a lot of it right now is learning to trust each other, so that has been interesting.

"Being a drag queen is not helping me at all! I thought that it might give me a small advantage in terms of confidence, but all of that went out the window the second I stepped into the classroom.

"Ballroom dancing is completely alien to me. It doesn't matter how much performing experience I have under my belt, it's not even remotely similar.

"If anything, it might have thrown me more than others, because it has taken me right out of the sphere of what I do normally. I'm having to re-learn how to perform in a very different way, so it's challenging on multiple levels.

"Because this is so foreign to me, I find myself zoning out in the middle of classes because I'm wondering how I'm going to coach my brain to feel like this is normal. It all feels so bizarre, so it is throwing me for 10 at the moment – but I'm also really enjoying it, for sure."

All Strictly Inverness contestants raise money for Highland Hospice, but this is not Darryl's first time working with the charity.

A former employee of the Kingsmills Hotel, he was involved in the hospice's Project Build Appeal, and he took part in Ness Factor in 2018.

In his student nurse days, he also worked in the hospice, and with some loved ones recently needing to use the facility his passion for the charity has only increased over the years.

Darryl Geegan, a nurse from Inverness, worked in the hospice in his student days.
Darryl Geegan, a nurse from Inverness, worked in the hospice in his student days.

"Over the last wee while I've had one of my cousins and a dear friend pass away in the hospice, so it has a really special connection for me now that maybe wasn't previously there," Darryl explained.

"The work they do is amazing, there was no better place for them to be," he said.

"I've been in the fortunate position of being a student nurse in the hospice, and seeing how things go there from that side of things.

"The atmosphere in the hospice is so worlds apart from what you find in a hospital. There's a really sombre but lovely feeling in the place.

"I knew bits of the work that they did, but to see exactly how person-centred it was there was really inspiring. That's not something that you see a whole lot in other environments.

"I have been in some environments where that takes a back seat, just because there is too much else to do. That sucks and it's unfortunate – I'm sure people do their best – but to see the level of person-centred care that goes into looking after people at the hospice is really amazing."

Darryl Geegan during Ness Factor 2018. Picture: Callum Mackay
Darryl Geegan during Ness Factor 2018. Picture: Callum Mackay

This year Strictly also has the landmark occasion of its first same-sex couples.

Having performed as Venuns Guytrap at last summer's Highland Pride event, it is something Darryl was delighted to see incorporated into the event.

"It means loads to me," he added.

"It would have been nice to see at least one male-male couple, but obviously with the application numbers that just wasn't going to be feasible.

Beth Saunders and Darryl Geegan. Picture: Callum Mackay
Beth Saunders and Darryl Geegan. Picture: Callum Mackay

"It doesn't matter what combination it is, the fact that there are same-sex couples in Strictly is amazing.

"That tells me that the organisers think Inverness is moving in a direction where that will be seen as acceptable.

"Even five or six years ago, I think there still would have been major question marks over doing that, whether for charity or not, so to see it happening is really cool.

"There is a whole new generation in Inverness now, and I see it every time I'm out performing. The age of people in Inverness that I know of is so much younger – I guess they are just being brought up with a different mentality and a different attitude.

"Loads of things being in mainstream media are going a long way to normalising things like same-sex couples. I think it has just been an organic, albeit slow, change.

"I recently performed in Thurso, and I'm led to believe that I'm the first drag queen ever that has performed in Thurso, so even in the sticks, as far north as you can go, things are changing, which is really cool."

Partnered with Beth Saunders, from Inverness, they are learning a Bachata and a street style number, as well as a team dance with seven other couples who are performing on the Thursday evening of the contest.

As well as the hospice, they are raising cash for Inverness Ice Centre which hosts and helps organise the annual dance contest in May.

Darryl, from Inverness, has a So you think you can drag? fundraising event planned for March 30 at the city's British Legion Club.

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