Theatre Review: The Ruby Slippers, Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool

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Image Source: Royal Court Theatre

Written By: Mark Armstrong

Format: Play
Genre: Comedy Drama
Date: July 25 2018
Location: Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool

Arriving in time for the annual Pride festivities, The Ruby Slippers tackles issues concerning sexuality and love, and those who feel like they are different on the inside to what they are on the outside, using humour, music and drama to create a memorable theatre experience.

The Ruby Slippers is a club built in the image of its owner Raz (James Rogerson), a gay man who is as flamboyant and outgoing as he is secretive about how he truly feels towards a member of the team, Ryan (Kurtis Stacey). The perception, especially by the club’s two-person drag act Phoenix (Jordan Simms) and Destiny (Owen Farrow), is that it will only be a matter of time before Raz and Ryan get together romantically. Certainly, Raz is just waiting for the right moment to let Ryan know – a sudden decision to kiss him on the lips is a big hint – and Ryan has admitted privately that he loves Raz.

However, Ryan does not like how he looks on the outside, and wishes to become a woman through planned surgery. He struggles to let Raz know, and he is eventually advised to let Raz know by text. The reaction is not exactly what he hoped for, and leads to a tense situation for all involved. In the meantime, Raz is strongly considering selling the struggling club to Laura (Emma Vaudrey), a representative of Asco (a local supermarket, after a huge merger perhaps?), which would result in the club closing down and becoming a supermarket. We also meet Helen (Debra Redcliffe), Ryan’s mum, who is training to become a psychic while remaining the go-between at times within the Raz-Ryan relationship.

Of course, while the tone becomes serious at times, the show largely focuses on comedy, and we get that in droves. Whether it’s the risqué banter between the central characters, the eye-catching and hammed-up drag performances to the (storyline) live audience by Phoenix and Destiny, the occasionally outrageous costumes, the homages to the likes of The Wizard Of Oz (with a particularly funny scene relating to Dorothy and friends towards the conclusion), and the spot-on discussions which take the real-life dilemmas that the LGBT community face on a daily basis and applying tasteful yet roof-raising humour to their predicaments all make for quite the production.

The performances are very good: Kurtis Stacey does a fine job as Ryan, but it’s James Rogerson as Raz who plays the biggest role in the show and demonstrates his range of talents by switching between comedy and drama in a matter of moments on multiple occasions. Not forgetting Jordan Simms and Owen Farrow, who themselves have plenty of experience as drag artists, and who throw themselves completely into their roles here as Phoenix and Destiny. The duo, in particular, will enlighten those who may have a pre-conceived notion of what life is like as a drag artist, and it will be shows like this that will make them realise that it is just the same as any career in any avenue of live entertainment, and neither they nor anybody else should be treated any differently as a result.

This is a great live performance to coincide with Pride, and it ticks all the right boxes while handling important issues, as well as delivering plenty of laughs and all-round entertainment. The club setting is authentic and makes every scene more believable, and there are plenty of well-known tracks that add context to some of the funnier moments. If you like your big dance routines, there are lots of those on display here as well. A minor issue I would mention concerns the running time for the second time, with there being a development just before the ending that, whilst important, extends the show by an extra 10-15 minutes, perhaps unnecessarily. Because the show takes place in the more intimate, underground auditorium of the Royal Court, I would advise attendees to arrive early for the performance, especially given the somewhat tough security on hand.

These are small criticisms, though. I really enjoyed The Ruby Slippers and I am certain that you will too. It’s a perfect show for Pride, and it’s one that I highly encourage you to check out during its current run.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10 – Excellent