Writer: BenDeLaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon
If there was a drag equivalent of Panto or mince pies, something that heralds in the holiday season, then Jinkx Monsoon and BenDeLaCreme could well be it. The former RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni have, over the recent past, established themselves as part of the alternative holiday season entertainment schedule. With two live Christmas tours and a holiday TV special under their belt, they’ve made their mark on Yuletide and are set to cement that with this year’s The Return of the Jinkx and DeLa Holiday Show Live!
The cumbersomely titled The Return is, in their own words, ‘a largely brand-new show with some of the hits and some of the classics’. The show picks up on their Crawford/Davis-styled relationship. DeLa is a Christmas-loving, wholesome, drag version of a Stepford wife, while Jinkx is a crude, rude, booze and drugs loving, Christmas hater.
We kick off with this odd-couple pairing being released from their pandemic isolation with DeLa on a quest to spread Christmas joy. Jinkx has other ideas and with her bah-humbug feelings on Christmas wants the world to see what Christmas really is; a pagan-stealing, money-making scam. This simple set-up is the main thrust of the show and plays perfectly to the chalk-and-cheese pairing of the stars. It provides much opportunity for Jinkx to revel in her love of the debauched while DeLa tries to bring things back to a more wholesome space.
The show is a lot of fun and delightfully performed. There’s a real affinity between the two performers, and that shines through. The original songs are funny and musically decent. The opening track about their Two Long Years in isolation effectively borrows the hook of Les Miserables’ One Day More whilst Boney M’s Rasputin is gloriously reworked lyrically to expose the Santa for the sham that he is.
The script is smart, sassy and, in the main, a lot of fun. Surprisingly, there’s also a powerful and effective social commentary on the darker side of Christmas and religion in general. Delivered sparingly and for laughs, it offers a remarkably pointed commentary on both subjects.
Overall, fun is the order of the day. Some of the jokes outstay their welcome, the overarching story is a bit meandering, and towards the end the story verges on mawkish. But these are relatively minor foibles, especially alongside some greater production issues.
However, there are two main issues with this production. Firstly, the sound. The amplified audio lacked decent clarity and there seemed to be no effective volume control. Through the audio mix Jinkx’s shouting (which she did often) and singing were overpowering, and the musical backing tracks were pushed so far back into the audio mix to be, at times, almost inaudible alongside the vocals.
The second issue, unfortunately, is less easy to address. It’s the venue. Jinks and DeLa have an infectious rapport on stage, much of their humour comes from how they play off each other and the audience. London’s Troxy is a surprisingly cavernous space, which despite a full house, feels half-empty. The overall sense of space between the audience and the stage creates a void where any potential intimacy between performer and viewer is removed. In doing so, it flattens the overall experience of the show
In a more intimate setting, this would be a much more engaging and enjoyable but at The Troxy any energy from the stage fails penetrate the audience. Let’s hope future ventures on the pair’s tour are a little more cosy!
Tours until December 30 2021