Director: Simon Phillips
Writers: Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott
Reviewer: Sharon MacDonald-Armitage
Based on the Australian film of the same name Priscilla Queen of the Desert rolls into Southampton’s Mayflower theatre in a colourful display of glitter, neon Lycra and false eyelashes. Having had a long run in London’s West End and previous tours and with a strong fanbase, it was with eager anticipation that the curtain went up on the opening night.
Duncan James plays Tick, a drag queen who decides to travel from Sydney; the capital of the drag scene, to Alice Springs, where he has been asked by his ex-wife to put on a show and, at the same time, meet his son whom he has never seen before. Accompanied by bitchy drag queen Felicia, played with just enough sass and attitude by Adam Bailey, and transvestite Bernadette – who steals the show – it is clear this trip on a broken down old bus called Priscilla, is not going to go smoothly. The opening drag performance by Callum MacDonald is a lot of fun, his banter with the audience and his transformation into Tina Turner is hilarious, making it hopeful for things to come. However, this is one of the highlights.
Priscilla Queen of the Desert is far from being neither a traditional musical nor even a traditional Jukebox musical and, despite a raft of easily recognisable 80s hits, there is something missing in this show. Yes, it is brash and garish, yes it has outrageous wigs and costumes and is full of camp innuendo and, yes, there is a lot of talent on stage, but the production feels tired and in some parts lazy, forcing the attention to ‘drift’ in parts. It isn’t a bad show, but it isn’t a fabulous one either. There are some fun moments; Don’t Leave Me This Way, I Will Survive and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun to name but three, plus some tender ones; A Fine Romanceand Always on My Mindand the final medley had much of the audience on their feet.
A special mention must go to the three Divas of the show: Lisa-Marie Holmes, Laura Mansell and Catherine Mort, all of whom give outstanding performances and sing superbly; not easy when most of the time you’re hanging from a wire 20-plus feet above the stage.
With a little more punch and some quicker delivery, the show might not have laboured so much.
Photo by Paul Coltas |Runs at the Mayflower, Southampton, until 19 September 2015 then continues a nationwide tour