BenDeLaCreme – “DeLa” for short – is “your Mom’s favourite Drag Race contestant”, as one remark in this tightly-constructed one-woman show tells us. On the evidence of Ready to be Committed, she should be everyone else’s, too.
The premise for the 90-minute performance is that DeLa is ready, at last, to settle down and tie the knot – anything to avoid dying alone after choking on a Dorito and being eaten by cats. There’s just one problem – she is single.
DeLa uses a combination of stand-up routines, puppetry and video inserts to dissect our obsessions with marriage, and the trappings that come with the ultimate in weddings. Her storytelling style is, she explains, to “take the smart and make it stupid” – and so we end up with a Horrible Histories-style romp through centuries of patriarchal tradition, with healthy dollops of smut and singing thrown in.
One of the main drivers of DeLa’s exploration is a series of conversations she has with a bridal cake topper (also DeLa, shot on video) for whom the traditional wedding is everything – and that means the presence of a groom (“the guy who stands next to you while you yell at the caterer”).
Her hunt for a suitable life partner takes her to Grindr, of course. The location-based hookup app has become an overused subject of satire in gay comedy, but DeLa’s persona as an ingenu who misunderstands a lot of the sexual slang in the messages she receives – and whose innocent replies manage to be even filthier – keeps the conceit fresh.
DeLa’s soul searching leads to a fact-heavy, fun-filled rap through the history of scientists’ attempts to rationalise and understand love, from the chemical analysis of hormone release to the Freudian theories of psychoanalysis. And while on paper that sounds quite dry, DeLa’s delivery and charisma makes for a winning combination.
One thing DeLa does seem afraid of is maintaining too much of her show as a monologue. Apart from the wedding cake topper, she also finds a conversational partner in the form of a talking, penis-shaped water bottle. While this isn’t a full ventriloquism act (the bottle’s voice being taped in), it’s a characteristically offbeat choice that is both cute and a little bit smutty.
As the water bottle chastises DeLa for wanting an engagement ring (“patriarchy’s smallest shackle”) a brief discussion on the history of women as the currency in a system of financial transactions between families leads to a pastiche of Beyoncé’s Single Ladies, revamped as “All Medieval Ladies”. Once more, this is source material that has been parodied to death, and here the BenDeLaCreme magic touch isn’t quite enough to cover for that.
The climax builds as DeLa catwalks a number of very different over-the-top bridal gowns, the costume changes covered by a sequence of video pastiches of Say Yes to the Dress which, though hilarious, suffer from diminishing returns with each reappearance.
But the concluding moments, in which DeLa subverts the usual triteness of finding a single overarching moral from the previous hour and a half of comedy, ensure that the drag queen goes out on the highest of highs. Whether you’re a romantic or a cynic going into her show, you’ll leave wanting to take her down the aisle yourself.
Continues until 11 June 2022