Writer: Emma Culshaw and David Paul
Director: Craig Ryder
Reviewer: Abbie Rippon
As part of Liverpool Pride 2018, the Studio at Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre is celebrating with a week’s run of Break a Leg Productions The Ruby Slippers. Set in a struggling drag club in Blackpool, The Ruby Slippers follows the story of club owner Raz (played by James Rogerson) as he struggles with his feelings for bartender and flatmate Ryan (played by Emmerdale’s Kurtis Stacey). The drag club faces pressure to close after a rival bar opens a few doors down and Raz and Ryan’s relationship is thrown into turmoil when Ryan reveals that he will soon be transitioning to become Rachel.
The piece questions prejudice both inside and outside the LGBTQ+ community. It has a somewhat predictable fairytale feel to it, with the notion that people will hopefully get over their prejudices and live happily ever after in the future. The show includes some heartfelt moments as it explores the impact that Ryan’s decision has on his potential lover, his friends and his family. Stacy’s portrayal of Ryan/Rachel clearly echoes the conflict, pain and relief the character must feel throughout his journey to become who she truly is.
Despite its sincere moments, at times The Ruby Slippers feels a little two dimensional, almost like a parody of itself. Some actors need a little more light and shade in their characterisation for their performance to truly be believable and for the audience to empathise and identify with their struggles. At times the acting is a little self-indulgent; it feels slow and sedated at times and doesn’t always show off the writing to its best.
The scenes are intermitted with a fabulous soundtrack; Kylie Minogue, Tina Turner and Lady Gaga all make an appearance! The music is a vital part of the production as it produces the foundation for the performances of resident drag artists Phoenix and Destiny. Supporting Raz and Ryan through their troubled relationship, Phoenix and Destiny (played by Jordan Simms and Owen Farrow respectively) are equipped with witty one-liners to suit every occasion. At times the show is like a game of innuendo bingo, writers Emma Culshaw and David Paul must have had great fun writing these two characters. Owen Farrow (AKA Divina De Campo) as Destiny has real presence, breaking out beyond the stereotype of a typical drag queen and giving the innuendo strewn dialogue a good amount of feeling.
The theatre is set up in a cabaret style with many scenes being lost to audience members who are sat towards the back of the theatre. If you are planning to attend, ensure you get a seat with good sightlines.
This show is entertaining enough, funny, if a little pretentious. It is very relevant, questioning the prejudices held against the transgender community. Some scenes, however, are all style without substance. At other times it takes itself so seriously that the audience don’t know how to react. At those moments when that wonderful balance is found between humour and sincerity, this production is engaging and enjoyable. But it needs more consistency to achieve this!
Runs until 28 July 2018 | Image: David Munn