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PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT    Reviewed by:  Richard Lovelock

Having not previously seen this show or the film upon which it is based I was a little unsure about what the evening had in store. The pre-show ‘Billy Connolly” announcement about mobile phones only made me more apprehensive; I thought it was un-necessarily coarse, there may well have been far worse language in the show itself - however in context it is acceptable.

That said, once the show did get going it was a highly entertaining evening with some excellent individual performances, good ensemble singing and it was also great to see a packed house all enjoying themselves.

The show tells the story of two drag queens and a transgender woman on a road trip in an old bus called Priscilla. Priscilla herself deserves a mention for the ingenious way the bus was used for both internal and external scenes.

As the drag queens Leigh Colin as Tick and Myky Webb as Felicia were superb. Both sang beautifully and showed us a depth of characterisation. I thought Leigh’s scene with his estranged son was beautifully played, whilst Myky really gave a sense of realism to the role, particularly in his gritty encounter with a homophobic bunch of Aussies in a bar.  

The role of the transgender female Bernadette is a much harder character to portray. Greg Rudkin-Moore filled the stilettos of the aging ex-star with sensitivity and feeling for the character that received the audiences understanding, a very difficult job well done.

The show is littered with great well known songs most of which were tied together by the three Divas – Charlotte Stephens, Mariam Gaballa-Gill and Tiffani Vinyard who sang and moved beautifully.

As Priscilla journeys her way across Australia to Alice Springs we meet a number of oddball Aussies along the way. The pick of the cameo roles were car mechanic Bob played by Dave Simmonds and his eastern wife Cynthia played by Gamila Libral-Gamal - Gamila was outrageously good with her ping pong balls. Imogen Farnworth as Tick’s wife Marion also stood out playing a small but important role very well.

The set – other than Priscilla – was quite simple with good use made of the full width of the front apron. The lighting was good throughout and helped to create the atmosphere of the differing locations.

Director Karina Bygate moved her characters on and off stage well and, by using the cast for scene changes, pieces of set and scenery were moved and utilised very smoothly meaning the pace never slacken. Karina managed to get a depth of feeling from her cast and also brought out a lot of humour. I also liked the use of the projections to introduce the different scenes and characters.

Musical Director Benjamin Weitzmann used the cast well to deliver song after song. There was no band and tracks were effectively used to provide the backing and underscoring. The overture at the beginning seemed a little odd and gave a feeling of a pantomime introduction, however after that the music flowed fluently. There was the odd hiccup with mics and occasionally some lib was lost against the underscoring, but overall the sound was good and the tracks provided a full and rounded background accompaniment.  

Kimberly Ann Woodcock’s Choreography was simple but effective, although I would have liked her to have pushed the cast further and had more movement at times as it all seem to be a little on the safe side.

The hired in costumes were excellent, from the heavily sequined dresses and headdresses of the drag queens to the outrageous paint pots and cupcakes of the ensemble they provided a feast of colour and extravagance.

A highly enjoyable show with some excellent performances which the audience loved. I also liked the opportunity given to the backstage crew to join in the finale in Priscilla.

Hemel Hempstead Theatre Company


review date: 7th October 2017 - Boxmoor Playhouse

Director: Karina Bygate  



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