Tuesday, 22 October 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert - The Winter Gardens, Blackpool.

The musical follows two drag queens and a transgender woman as they journey across the Australian outback from Sydney to Alice springs in a battered old tour bus that they name Priscilla. Along the way they encounter various groups of people and individuals who react to them in different ways. The three main characters are Tick (drag queen Mitzi), Adam (drag queen Felicia) and Bernadette a transgender woman.

The show starts as the curtains with the outline of Australia on it is lifted to reveal the three silver sparklingly clad Divas, Aiesha Pease, Claudia Kariuki and Rosie Glossop delivering a sensational rendition of the classic '80’s hit ‘It’s Raining Men’ from a high platform on the stage overlooking a dance routine to the number. Then enters Kevin Yates as the flamboyant, over-the-top Miss Understanding who warms the audience up with risqué jokes, innuendos and comical expressions in her fantastically over-the-top glitzy dress, wig and boots.

The real story begins with Joe McFadden as Tick taking a call from his estranged wife asking him to come and perform at her casino. Wanting to meet his son, Tick agrees. Tick's character is portrayed as someone who is a bit fed up with how things are turning out for him, he’s bored with the same old routines and wants more substance to his life, he wants to get to know his son, there is a tenderness and insecurity portrayed in his character as he doesn’t know how his son will respond to him and what he does; will he be ashamed of who his father is? Tick enlists Adam/ Felicia, played by Nick Hayes whose character is flamboyant, acidic and out to shock. He is young, confident and out to have a good time, some very funny parts and energetic performances from a character that is out to shock. Bernadette, a transgender woman, played by Jak Allen -Anderson is his other companion on the trip. Bernadette is a tall willowy figure, demure and ladylike; with a sense of vulnerability, unless you insult her then you may feel her caustic tongue as she has some great one-liners.

As they journey in to the outback they begin to learn many things about themselves as they encounter different groups and colourful characters along the way. Not everyone is as welcoming or accepting of the trio and Adam learns that his flamboyant lifestyle and sassy persona is not to everyone’s taste. In one of the towns they encounter homophobic abuse and their bus has Graffiti painted on it. When the bus breaks down in the desert we meet Bob, played by Daniel Fletcher, whose character despite his appearance is quite tender and becomes attracted to Bernadette. Is there a possibility of finding love again since the death of her husband? We also meet Bob’s bored, provocative, Asian wife, Cynthia. What that woman can do with ping pong balls is eye wateringly funny.

Along the way to Alice Springs are many energetic, well choreographed dance routines and songs from the '80s. The costumes were full of colour, glitz and glamour an indulgence for any sequin lover out there. Each costume change seemed to outdo the last, and we were treated to a whistle-stop history of them as they performed at Alice Springs and Tick gets to meet his son, before building up to the finale at Ayers Rock.

The scenery was cleverly simplistic, and used effectively, a projected backdrop of the hot sunny desert with brilliant blue sky was used as they travelled in the bus. Other scenes were effective with the use of lighting on what appeared corrugated iron sheets with doors allowing characters to move in and out of scenes as well as using them as pillars to give depth to the stage. Priscilla (the bus) was well constructed and came apart in sections to show scenes inside the bus as well as it travelling as a whole.

By the time our characters reached Ayers Rock to fulfil Adam/Felicia's dream of performing in drag on the top it, the audience were clapping to the songs, laughing at the witty one-liners and gave a standing ovation at the end. The music, the songs and dancing and indulgently glamorous costumes made this a feel-good evening with an underlying message. In my humble opinion well worth an evening out.

Reviewer - Catherine Gall
on - 21/10/19

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