Theatre Review: Priscilla: Queen Of The Desert, Empire Theatre, Liverpool

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Image Source: Liverpool Echo

Written By: Mark Armstrong

Format: Musical
Genre: Comedy
Date: January 25 2016
Location: Liverpool Empire Theatre

Sometimes, you will go to a number of theatre shows and find that some productions share similar traits, whether it be in the storyline or the style of humour used or even with key events within the plot. Priscilla: Queen Of The Desert is not one of those shows; this is a very unique production with outlandish characters and various, if at times confusing, storylines. However, this does not detract from one’s enjoyment of the show.

Priscilla sees three drag queen performers travelling together on a bus across Australia. Along the way, they exchange risqué jokes aplenty; engage in situations involving new flings and unwanted strangers; provide love life revelations and receive threats about their own sexual persuasions; and perform musical numbers ranging from soft melodies to extravagant dance displays.

It is clearly a comedy at its core, although those unprepared for what will unfold before them may want to beware of the strong language used throughout, including an eyebrow-raising form of graffiti designed to chase the performers back home. It’s a show that will appeal to those who have been in similar situations before in regards to receiving such threats and negative stereotyping from ignorant people who ridiculously look down on them because they’re not “like everybody else”. For that section of the audience, this will not only be a great parody but also in some ways an emotional reflection of their own experiences, coupled with a happy ending which should satisfy all.

I particularly liked the colourful, flashy costumes used throughout the show, from Las Vegas Showgirl-style attires to interesting clothing based on animals, food products and even flowers. The settings were also cool, which included a party-style bus that transported the star characters on their journey to the big show. Simon Green shone in the role of Bernadette, with many cutting one-liners and a willingness to throw him/herself into any situation which arose. Richard Astbury also did a good job as Adam/Felicia; clearly in a supporting role at first amongst the leading trio, he would establish himself as one of the standout performers by the end of the night.

Conversely, while Jason Donovan performed well overall as Mitzi/Tick, he seemed a little uncomfortable at various points, from the opening scene when he unexpectedly stripped down to an overly-tight looking pair of Y-fronts (I could have loaned him a spare pair of boxers if he’d asked) to later scenes where he seemed a little off at times when performing dance numbers (my dance skills are atrocious so I couldn’t have helped him there) to moments where his character used language that one wouldn’t imagine the “normal” Jason Donovan using (no idea how I could help with that, either). I also found the plot quite hard to follow at times, with the story leaping into unexpected music scenes and side plots which had almost been forgotten.

On the whole, though, Priscilla: Queen Of The Desert was a fun night at the theatre. I wouldn’t rank it as the best show that one could spend their money on, but if you want to sit back for a few hours and get some good laughs while hearing some funky tunes from back in the day, Priscilla is a good option.

Overall Rating: 7/10 – Respectable