A Big Old Bus called Priscilla rolled into Woking’s New Victoria Theatre this week with feathers and glitter, fellas and bows ….(thought I was going to say something else didn’t ya but I don’t know about gardening instruments, they have no place here, in theatre, unless it was a musical about Alan Titchmarsh)
The lavish production was lively from the start, a large pink lipstick firmly staking the intentions of the night being big, brash lively and entertaining. A big star of the whole event were the costumes designed by Lizzy Gardiner amazing from the gothic at the funeral scene of Trumpet ‘he couldn’t play a note dear but had such a large foreskin he could fit a gingerbread biscuit under it’ to paraphrase Bernadette played by Simon Green, to the eccentric paintbrushes, green cakes and sunflowers. The designer should get a medal but she’d probably make a better one herself anyway.
Singing from the Divas was amazing as they were lowered down from the ceiling to provide the voices for the tradition of the lip syncing drag queens a tradition that Adam played by Adam Bailey wants to break away from and struggles to convince the more traditional Bernadette. A jukebox show where every song is a well known hit that will have resonated with everyone bringing memories flooding back.
This bickering goes around Tick (Darren Day) who longing to see his son and fed up with city life decides to go to Alice Springs to perform in his wife’s casino show. The discovery of him having a wife and son shocks his feisty friends at the end.
The trio travel across the desert coming across traditional communities who haven’t embraced the drag queen phenomena and surprising pots of tolerance in Bob the mechanic who helps them out of a spot and falls in love with Bernadette, a touching sub story of dignity and compassion. Simon Green brings glamour and class to the role perfectly emulating the character who longs for a more refined days gone by glamour of the drag queen divas.
Darren Day’s portrayal of Tick balances the character as he changes from ordinary man to full blown femme fatale and yearning father, his singing is sweet and reminds me of Donny Osmond, luckily my sister wasn’t there she would’ve wet her knickers, though hopefully she has outgrown that now Donny is a Grandad.
The three amigos have a good chemistry and balance on stage and the characters meeting diversity have some hilarious moments. The bar in Broken Hill with dancing on the tables and bars reminds me wistfully of when the children were young and school Mums would have a night out every half term or so. Well, I say night out, they started out on one night and ended up on another day completely anyhow… back to work. My favourite line which I am going to commit to memory to use on occasion (don’t sue me) came from Bernadette to Shirley ‘why don’t you light your tampon and blow your box apart?’ There was also a great round of applause for ‘why do we do this every night copping insults and abuse?’ ‘So we can feel like real women’
At this point I need to declare an interest. On returning after the interval I was informed by a fellow reviewer that they needed dancers for the second half. ‘This sounds like the job for my matronly fame!’ my friend Maria came too (she actually can dance) We queued up with others who sort of looked fit and said things to each other like ‘what do we do?’ Oh just do what you did in ‘Phantom’ I thought ‘aye aye, these are ringers like those people that go to karaoke nights but have a booking as Tom Jones tributes in real life’ Backstage we were asked to put our wine down (!) a nice lady looked after my scarf. Suddenly I was pulled onstage by an Australian Diva the height of a building with a lovely deep voice and amazing eyelashes. ‘Follow Me, do what I do’ ‘Do you have tena lady back here because I don’t want Injury Lawyers 4U after me because Darren Day has slipped over?’ He couldn’t answer my probing in the middle of telling me to dance like a chicken. (I am a fully certified Irish dancer so kept my arms as low as possible – no relatives turning in their graves on my account, well not for dancing anyway) We went around the front of the stage and gave a bow, I was still in work clothes so hopefully no one will review the confused looking plump woman with wine cheeks dressed like a community nun with no make up on and needing her roots done. Should I get an agent? On the way back I asked if I could nick one of the amazing costumes for a gig this weekend, this suggestion was eschewed with the flimsy excuse of them being man sized. I pointed out I had two boys fighting under a blanket smuggled in my tunic but it fell on deaf ears. We went back to our seats and enjoyed the second half.
The touching scenes where Tick meets his son again were part of the underlying theme of acceptance that runs through the show. Bernadette’s acceptance of grief, of changing times, Adam’s of maturing and becoming kinder and accepting the differences in others, communities accepting people can be their own creation and not conform, and where the son accepts his father is what he is and loves him just the same.
The final amazing part was the question that many have asked over years and years from Richard Harris to Donna Summer and beyond. It was, in fact, Bernadette who left the cake out in the rain and the song and dance around this was a spectacle.
If only the colour and fun of this musical could be spilled out on the streets of every grey town, every grey day.
At the end they got a standing ovation and they deserved it. If you get a chance get to see it, especially if times have been a bit rough recently – better than a prescription and more fun than an enema. (So I am told) Really, do go and see it the whole shebang are fantastic and such a rapport with the audience too.
Priscilla Queen of the Desert runs at The New Victoria Theatre until Saturday 27 February tickets can be obtained from http://www.atgtickets.com 08448717645