ReviewSouth West

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – Plymouth Theatre Royal

Book: Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott
Director: Simon Phillips
Reviewer: Karen Bussell

CULT camper alert. Priscilla is back in town!

Where else would dangling divas, feathers, fun and general flamboyance elicit a standing ovation, tears and much laughter if not on the outrageous Outback expedition?

Darren Day lives upto expectations as Tick – most charismatic and with a great voice. His gentle portrayal of the queen with an heir is nicely honed and believable.

Summoned by the heartstrings to meet his son, he heads west aboard a leopard skin-print upholstered battered bus with warring duo Bernadette and Adam – a bereft ginger nut lover and exuberant Kylie aficionado.

En route encounters with shimmying Tina Turner impersonators, low slung barmaids with an itch that just must be scratched, rough rednecks, ping pong popping mail order brides, bigots and hillybillies delight and shock with a talented company stepping up (literally with some of those skyscraper heels) in check shirts, bush hats and oh so many feathers (not all at the same time thankfully).

Not for the faint-hearted, the language is ripe, there’s in-your-face innuendo and non-stop thrusting, and it’s certainly not in the best possible taste – but taste is not what the audience is after.

Laugh out loud moments are interspaced with more retrospective comment on tolerance and relationships, brilliant one-liners abound and menace is palpable but it is all a bit slick and showy, and it’s hard to engage with the heart of the piece.

Classy transgender cougar Bernadette is played with just the right balance of bitchiness and pathos by leggy Simon Green. Her journey from tart with a broken heart to new love is littered with campfire confessions and wry commentary.

Kylie wanna-be Adam Bailey is glitzy Adam/Felicia, wonderfully camp and pneumatic, strutting his Hot Stuff with thrusting hips and plenty of pizzazz aiming for the dizzy heights – of Ayres Rock in full showgirl garb.

There’s showstopper hits aplenty (think pop classics I Will Survive, Go West, Hot Stuff, Always On My Mind, I Love the Nightlife and much much more) with the airbourne Divas – Rebecca Botterill, Lisa-Marie Holmes and Catherine Mort – absolutely fabulous and The Band, under direction of Matthew J Loughran, tremendous.

Ross Coleman and Andrew Hallsworth’s choreography is superb, ranging from line dancing through raunchy wriggling to Tiller Girl-esque showpieces while Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner provide the campest, craziest costumes.

A breath-taking wardrobe fitting for the Ugly Sisters and a Busby Berkeley extravaganza must take up several pantechnicons with sequins, headdresses, leather, cheeky bustles, glittery minis and flamboyant shoes – colourful and wonderfully over-the-top.
Brian Thomson’s bus is a genius centrepiece complete with cocktail bar and fluffy cushions, neon lights and graffiti, spinning wheels and plenty of fluff.

Priscilla is what it is: brash, colourful non-PC fun, so park your sensibilities before climbing aboard.

Runs until 14 May 2016 and then continues to tour | Image: Paul Coltas

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The Southwest team is under the editorship of Holly Spanner. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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