Wednesday, 2 May 2018

REVIEW: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

Based on the hit 1994 film and after enjoying successful runs on both the West End and Broadway, ‘Priscilla: Queen of the Desert’ makes its regional professional premiere at the Queen’s theatre Hornchurch. This also marks the first time the show has been done as actor-musician following suite from their production of ‘Made in Dagenham’ and looking forward to their future production of ‘Once’.

Personally I’ve never been a fan of making a show actor-musician unless it adds something to the concept or is integral to the narrative of this show, and in this instance, to a degree, whilst always impressive, is slightly damaging. It unfortunately limits the ensemble from really getting involved in a show, hindering the choreography and direction of a piece that is at its heart about togetherness, community and celebration. 

Performances on the other hand are largely strong Mark Inscoe absolutely steals the show as Bernadette. Every moment is nuanced and affecting, hitting the comedy with pin point accuracy whilst also managing to stir the soul during the soft and heart-breaking moments of the show. In this day and age especially, it is heavily empowering to have a strong, independent transsexual character portrayed so truthfully and openly. Tom Giles as Mitzi navigates the story well, taking us on a wild journey through the Australian outback with ease and confidence, vocally stealing the show with his rendition of ‘MacArthur Park’. Daniel Bailey completes the lead trio, bringing much of the sass and solid one liner delivery. The ensemble although modest had some great standouts: Molly-Grace Cuter’s vocals were exceptional and thoroughly underused, Tom Self stole his scene as Farrah and managed to conduct the group less than 3 seconds later after he got off stage and Josh Tye’s opening to act two was one of the highlights of the performance. 

As a production it has a lot of potential and I hope it achieves it over future performances by having time to settle in. Only providing the cast and technical team with one preview did not give them enough time to iron out all the technical issues which I’m afraid this night was wrought with.

Another snag was unfortunately the general aesthetic of the production; for a
show all about vibrancy, it was rather dull. Drag as a form is all about performance and giving a show. Unfortunately the set and the costumes did not do the production justice. They used the depth of the stage often, which whilst impressive left areas of dead space that weren’t utilised effectively. There were some exceptionally impressive set pieces throughout act two, however, I feel this could have been used to better effect. 

The show wasn’t without its issues however, at the centre of it is a message of strength and unity against ignorant adversity; a celebration of what it means to be yourself and to be content with the life you lead, and in today’s current climate there’s nothing we need more.

By Ben Hipkiss 

Rating: ★★★
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