Goodnight Ladies is a short LGBTQ+ drama. One night, during a show in an East-London drag-bar, a body is found in the backstage dressing room: an unconscious drag-queen in a red-sequin dress, her nose streaming blood. Flashback by half-an-hour, we watch the events unfold into the opening scene... Rehearsals are underway for the evening’s drag show. Drag queen Kim has been working for the club most of her career, thinking of her colleagues as family. However she’s forced to face the pressures of change when Oli, the bar owner, replaces their colleague for a younger queen, Amber. Sensing a rift in the familial fabric, Kim confronts Oli about this last-minute change. Hardly reassured by his emphasis on business over family, her own feelings of insecurity and jealousy are stirred against her younger rival. As the clock counts down to show time, Kim’s periphery friendships in the club begin to fall apart; when Amber informs her that she’s old-fashioned and doesn’t belong in the club, mounting tensions force Kim into the extreme - tripping Amber onstage and sabotaging the show. Badly injured, Amber is rushed backstage. And Oli is forced to let Kim go.
The film adapts the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4:1–18. Rather than a biological rivalry, Goodnight Ladies explores the insecurities and jealousies between Kim and Amber, a drag family or ‘found family’ common in queer community-building. Kim claims that she’s ‘not my sister’s keeper’, displacing the fraternal relationship in the Bible for a sororal one (‘sisters’ as a queer term of endearment), blurring personal and professional ties. Diverting from agriculture in the source material, issues of labour are still explored in the underground, urban setting. Oli is presented as an omnipotent figure; his judgement holding sway as he fires Kim who - like Cain - is driven from her land and forced to wander. While there’s ambiguity around Cain’s motive other than jealousy (or implications that evil was the cause; 1 John 3:12), Goodnight Ladies tries to flesh out more nuanced reasons for Kim’s assault, exploring insecurities surrounding age in show-business and the way personal relationships can be challenged under commercial strain. The film hopefully offers more sympathy for its Cain-like lead; without condoning Kim’s actions, the film explores the reasons for her behaviour given the pressures imposed by her environment.