CabaretFeaturedFestivalsReviewSouth East

Brighton Fringe: You Shall Not Yass – Ironworks Studios

Reviewer: Ely La Rue

Company: Ham It Up

A merry reimagining of the iconic fantasy franchise if the characters ate and left no crumbs.

The prologue of the first film plays via projector and an elf-eared drag queen, Galadriel, lip syncs to Cate Blanchett’s narration with effortless timing and comedic facial expressions, complete with eye rolling when she says “but the hearts of men are easily corrupted”. The tone is set for a night of tongue-in-cheek humour married to our favourite, iconic moments from Tolkien’s epic fantasy franchise.

Ham It Up bring their six-time-sell-out drag extravaganza to Brighton for the first time, much to our delight. This cabaret show boasts a talented cast of drag performers who dance, lip sync and sing live to pop songs spliced with sound bites and clips from the film which play on the screen throughout. Drag queens Herr the Queen and Me The Drag Queen host the show, as well as performing in it, entertaining the audience with titillating banter and encouraging our thunderous applause for the acts.

We meet many legendary characters along the way who bring iconic moments from the first film to life, reimagined through a drag lens. Gandalf (in his bejewelled grey gown), seeking passage through the Mines of Moria, lip syncs to Girls Aloud – Sound of the Underground, we experience an epic rendition of Christina Aguilera’s Beautiful by Smeagol and the undeniable sexual tension between Frodo Baggins (Bi-Curious George) and Samwise Gamgee (Sweet FA) is finally addressed as we watch them harmonise and dance to You’ve Got a Friend by Carole King. Me The Drag Queen stuns as she turns out not one, not two, but four different looks as three different characters: Gandalf, Lady Galadriel and Éowyn. She lip syncs to the film’s dialogue effortlessly, even syncing her actions up to the sound effects for brilliant comedic effect.

The show has this ever-present playfulness throughout with performers purposely missing the odd cue, the use of a leaf blower to blow Gollum’s robe into a suggestive, sensual flurry or the stage manager (also dressed as a hobbit) dutifully playing the Mirror of Galadriel by kneeling on the floor and holding a silver tray above their head. Although perhaps a little rough around the edges, these moments add charm to the show.

The solo performances are wonderful in their own right but the cast really shine when there are multiple performers on stage. This, unfortunately, only happens a couple of times and the show could definitely benefit from more group numbers. Audience members will be disappointed to hear that Legolas (possibly the lowest-hanging fruit of the Lord of the Rings line-up for a drag show with his long silky hair and wistful gaze) does not make an appearance and neither does his companion Gimli. This could be somewhat disappointing for the fans of that “bromance” but be reassured that this isn’t the first Tolkien inspired drag night by Ham It Up and it hopefully won’t be their last so we may catch the elf and dwarf sharing a smooch yet.

Although You Shall Not Yass was a one-night-only spectacle for the queer nerds of Brighton, Ham It Up express eagerness to perform in our seaside city again, perhaps with one of their other very many themed drag nights based on film and tv shows such as Shrek, Desperate Housewives, Glee and more. Whatever show they bring, Brighton will be lucky to have them.

Reviewed on 6th May 2024

The Review Hubs Score

A Raucous Romp

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