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Unholy show Drag queen and outspoken priest go for dinner on new Virgin Media reality show Eating with The Enemy

Rising drag star Bonnie Ann Clyde and outspoken priest Fr Joe McDonald have a (socially distanced) bite to discuss their differences in Virgin Media's new show Eating With The Enemy

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James Keogh as drag artist Bonnie Ann Clyde (above)

James Keogh as drag artist Bonnie Ann Clyde (above)

James Keogh as drag artist Bonnie Ann Clyde (above)

A drag queen and a Catholic priest walk into a bar - it may sound like the start of a lame joke, but it's actually the premise of a new Virgin Media reality TV show kicking off this week.

Drag artist Bonnie Ann Clyde and Fr Joe McDonald are just two of the seeming opposites who break bread - at a safe, social distance, of course - in Eating With The Enemy this Wednesday night.

Although neither knew the identity of their dinner date beforehand, James Keogh, better known to fans as Bonnie, told Magazine+ how producers were clearly praying for an unholy row.

"I want to say when I turned the corner and saw a priest, I was shocked," admits James, who's from Swords in Dublin. "But I had a little inkling in my head that it was going to be quite extreme in the difference.

"The week before I went on they called and were like, 'So just to confirm, you are an atheist, right?' And I thought, 'Oh here we go', get ready to defend my lifestyle and my livelihood.

"So I was waiting for a religious figure to be sat there - it could have been the Pope!"

Not quite, although in some circles, Belfast man Joe - who hit headlines with his controversially-named 2017 book Why the Irish Church Deserves to Die - may be just as famous.

But even he wasn't expecting such a divine dinner companion when filming took place under strict Covid-19 rules at the Radsson Blu Royal Hotel in Dublin in December.

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Fr Joe McDonald

Fr Joe McDonald

Fr Joe McDonald

"My immediate reaction was the dress," laughs Joe, who is parish priest for Celbridge and Strafan. "All I could see was this gorgeous blue dress and curves because the dress was clingy and the blonde hair.

"Even the trailer is getting a great reaction. The amount of people who have contacted me and said, 'What the hell is this?' You're with a drag queen and the drag queen is saying, 'Do I get a second date?' It's very funny.

"I'm quite nervous about it," he confesses of the show, which neither have yet seen. "I've timed this very badly because under normal circumstances I could jump on a plane and go away somewhere for a week!"

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Sex, religion and politics are just some of the normally taboo dinner party topics tackled by the six-part social experiment, aimed at encouraging honest dialogue between chalk and cheese participants in an age of cancel culture.

But (spoiler alert) the Twittersphere will be disappointed if it's expecting fur to fly between the 26-year-old glamazon and the 59-year-old cleric, who Joe explains are both used to being judged by their cover.

"You can get extreme reactions to the collar," he says, citing examples ranging from the overly deferential to the verbally abusive. "If you go down say O'Connell Street or Grafton Street, I guarantee you'll get some hostility.

"It'll range from, 'Go on, you paedophile' to possibly spitting in your face - the anger would be palpable.

"Definitely it was an interesting experience," Fr Joe adds of the show, which features clinical psychologist Dr Malie Coyne and psychotherapist Richard Hogan behind the scenes. "I felt that we got on really well.

"Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that there was no challenge in it - of course there was - but at the end of it when I was driving home, there was a bit of me like, 'Where was the enemy?'

"So I think it's how do you dialogue with somebody who's coming from a different stance on key things."

For James, meanwhile, who created Bonnie while studying communications at college seven years ago, it just made for a nice change that Fr Joe had precisely zero interest in contouring.

"A lot of people go straight to the make-up," laughs the professional MUA. "They go, 'How long does it take you to do your make-up?'"

Up to two hours, Magazine+ found out, in case you're wondering.

"But he was quite taken by the whole package, which I really appreciated! I kind of dread wearing the heels for more than an hour and getting the make-up on, sometimes you're sat there thinking, 'What am I doing with my life?' But it's fun work."

Already a huge hit on Instagram at @bonnieannclyde_, James revealed how Bonnie is busier than ever in lockdown with everything from virtual shows to online kids' book readings, as RuPaul's Drag Race continues to bring the art form to the masses.

It's another thing the odd couple have in common as Fr Joe is currently flat out doing online masses - although, presumably with less lip-syncing.

"I have really got into it," he admits. "I'd say even if we were fully opened up again I would do one day a week all online.

"I would say mass at the kitchen table here. I'm amazed some of the people who tune into it - they would never be in church, ever. Some of them are young adults living at home, they'd be saying, 'Ah Jesus, ma, you're not listening to that big fat priest from Belfast again!'

"And she'd be saying, 'You sit down and listen to him, you might learn something!' Then somebody says to me, 'You caused a massive row in our house last Wednesday.' There's some funny sides to it.

"Underlying it all there is a little antidote to isolation and loneliness."

Still, if there's one way to walk in someone else's shoes, as Eating With The Enemy intends, it's to, well, actually walk in their shoes.

Sashay, you say, as Bonnie reckons Fr Joe has definite drag potential.

"I think everyone should try drag at least once," jokes James. "I think we could definitely try - that's a photo shoot in the making!

"Oh fantastic," Joe takes the makeover invitation in good spirit. "That'll go down well with the Archbishop!"

⬤ Eating with the Enemy starts this Wednesday on Virgin Media One at 9pm

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