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Review: Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Woking

Priscilla Darren Day bus Photo by Paul Coltas high res copy

Fun, flamboyant, fabulously flouncy and, er, phallic. Definitely phallic. From the opening scene where a giant red lipstick thrusts skyward, to the rounded candles atop the lime green cupcake-clad dancers, this musical makes its intentions abundantly clear.

It’s brassy and brash – an orgy of double entendres, innuendo, extravagant jokes and cliches. Oh, and thrusting. Plenty of thrusting, sometimes with pert bottoms bared. The audience last night at New Victoria Theatre in Woking loved it!

The costumes, of course, are utterly fabulous. Feathers and frills, sequins and sparkles, Lycra and enormously long lashes. And headwear so elaborate it must hurt. Add to that a hit parade of gay anthems including ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’, ‘I Will Survive’, ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’, ‘Can’t get You Out of My Head’, ‘Spinning Around’ and the party has well and truly started.

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past 20-odd years, you’ll know that Priscilla is the stage version of Stephan Elliott’s low-budget Australian film that became a cult hit in early Nineties, both here and there.

Priscilla Darren Day on stage 3 leads Photo by Paul Coltas HI RES copy

It follows three drag queens who set off on a road trip through the Australian outback, bound for Alice Springs casino, bedecked in gaudy frocks, inch-thick slap and thigh-high boots. It could have felt tacky, and on occasion the crude jokes do fall a little flat, but the simple story and pulsating energy give it a real sense of fun and joy.

Darren Day steps into the role of Tick, a Sydney cabaret star, and the leader of the gals. He had those skinny legs out, and that tattooed chest that he’s clearly been working on, and somehow managed to be both dynamic and tender. But he was also overshadowed by his co-stars.

Simon Green was fabulous as the ageing and lonely Bernadette, a Les Girls cabaret veteran, played if you remember, with such grace and eloquence by Terence Stamp in the film. Green captures Bernadette’s quiet dignity, and still delivers those one-liners with aplomb.

But the big show-stealer was Adam Bailey as the flirty and flamboyant Felicia. He struts his stuff in that highly excitable puppy-dog way. And boy can he sing. He rocks those short skirts and crazy platforms, too!

There are also some phenomenal female backing singers, regularly suspended from the ceiling and wearing outrageous angel costumes or over-the-top fishtail dresses, belting out the hits.

There was, at times, an atmosphere of being at a hen party as rows of women in the audience cackled and clapped along. But this is not just one for the girls. Mr Muds came along and, despite having not seen the film, he loved it. It’s as camp as a row of pink tents in the Aussie desert, but it’s lots of fun and certainly rollicks along.

Buy tickets. £15-£35. Until Sat 27 Feb at New Victoria Theatre, The Ambassadors, Peacocks Centre, Woking, GU21 6GQ.


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