The Campest Bus to Roll into Town
Priscilla Queen of the Desert, based on the 1994 Australian film of the same name, rolled into the Mayflower on the 14th of September for a one week run. After nearly three years in the West End, this is the second UK wide tour and the second time it has enraptured audiences at this Southampton venue.
The cast is led by Priscilla’s newest member, Blue’s Duncan James as Tick. James shows off his impressive physique many a time before he goes on to don the Lycra and sequins as Tick’s alter ego Mitzi – with both parts of his performance equally entertaining.
The Musical tells the story of two drag queens and a transgender woman, who work as drag performers in Sydney. They decide to travel to Alice Springs after Tick, unbeknown to the others, tries to find them work close to his son and wife. With Tick’s hidden agenda of seeing his son, the trio, along with their tour bus Priscilla, head to the remote outback town of Alice Springs. The production highlights the trials and tribulations of going “on tour” into the more rural areas of Australia and the homophobia that a drag act can encounter whilst presenting you with underlying messages of acceptance .
Simon Green and Adam Bailey do a sterling job as Tick’s two tour mates, Bernadette and Felicia. Note should also be made to the impressive singing imparted from the 3 divas who are suspended above all the action –providing the voices behind the lip synching drag queens.
Priscilla boasts a massive array of jukebox musical numbers including Go West, I Will Survive, Can’t Get You Out Of My Head and Hot Stuff to name but a few – which are entertaining to watch. The costumes are equally as colourful and spectacular which adds a real energy to the performance – I’m jealous of how the cast walk and run so effortlessly in high heels, I would end up flat on my face running like they do.
There were two main things to let the production down for me and one was the set design. The Priscilla set if sent back to the garage, would fail its MOT – as it definitely needs some fine tuning. There was so much scope for impressive staging, with locations like Ayres Rock, however the cast were often just performing in front of a rickety red curtain which leads to the magnitude of Outback Australia being lost in translation.
The music/storyline ratio was slightly off in my opinion and I must admit, I didn’t really understand what was going on half the time partly through my own lack of context. I think director Simon Phillips saved the best piece of script to last with the interaction between Tick and his son – whose cuteness tugged on many a heart string!
Whilst there is room to improve, there is no denying that this musical does what it says on the tin. It is a fun, flamboyant and feel-good night out; the all singing all dancing element must win over audiences night after night. The Opening Night at The Mayflower had the whole audience on their feet and even had some dancing at curtain call.
Priscilla may be rolling into a town near you soon with dates scheduled until the end of April 2016.