14 September 2021

Priscilla: Queen of the Desert - Curve Review

Throw yourself in for a performance of dazzling colour as Priscilla: Queen of the Desert rolls into Curve as part of the current UK tour.


The 80's inspired jukebox musical features some of the biggest disco hits, the opening beats of  'It's Raining Men' get the crowd going right from the beginning and that energy flows throughout the performance until a delightful finale at the curtain call. Under the musical direction of Richard Atkinson, the band create a thumping joyous noise.


The Priscilla company. Photo by Darren Bell.


Inspired by the cult 1994 movie of the same title, it follows 3 drag queens who unite for a performance in the Australian outback travelling all the way in a battered old bus they've christened Priscilla.


Along their journey, they face mechanical faults, homophobia and each other, but ultimately this is a show about family. The family the trio make together despite their flaws and the family Tick unites with. It's an uplifting piece about celebrating who you are.


The colour of the piece is brought to life by the sensational costumes by Charlie Cusick-Smith. They could easily topple over the top into being gaudy but it never feels that way. The costumes are bright, colourful and a delight to the senses. I'm less convinced by the set, the corrugated iron does look a little clunky at times but the bus itself is an ingenious design that allows for its separate parts to be connected that creates other parts of the scenery. 


Tom Jackson Greaves exuberant choreography is performed with real skill by the company, the movement is fluid and fits into each style of the characters and setting on the stage - whether that be in the Outback drinking establishments in 'Thank God I'm A Country Boy' or to the more extravagant company numbers like 'Go West' which features some great flagography, the work by Tom is tremendous.

Miles Western (Bernadette), Edwin Ray (Mitzi) and Nick Hayes (Felicia). Photo by Darren Bell.

Edwin Ray is superb as Tick/Mitzi. He makes the character believable and with real heart, especially when the character is reunited with his son later on in the show. Edwin does a fantastic job as the one of the trio who holds everything together as the other two constantly bicker and bitch about each other. Nick Hayes has boundless energy and charm as Adam/Felicia. He is endlessly confident and fits the role tremendously, he sings up a storm too with a powerful vocal range that soars in 'Hot Stuff'.


The show hasn't been without backlash with the character of Bernadette being trans. Back in March, the show put out a casting call looking for trans actors and in the end, only one, Allie Daniels, has been cast in an ensemble role and to understudy the trans part in the show (see here for further reading). I have nothing against Miles Western who does do a fabulous job in characterising the role, he sings with real confidence and captures the slightly washed-up diva really well but it does feel a shame that a cis male is still playing the role.


Claudia Kariuki, Rosie Glossop and Aiesha Pease are outstanding as the Divas. Their soaring vocals fill the numbers with real power. Each has a fantastic stage presence, they sound and look amazing. Daniel Fletcher does a lovely job of fleshing out likeable mechanic Bob. Gracie Lai gives a memorable turn as Cynthia, her scene-stealing 'Pop Muzik' is hilarious. Kevin Yates stands out as Miss Understanding. They give a really funny opening section where they break the fourth wall. There's fantastic energy throughout the talented ensemble.


The show completely dazzles and is a real crowd-pleaser. The show is an explosion of glitter, rainbows and delivers the purest joy that you can only get from live performance. It is a perfect show for people to return to a theatre with. You will leave with a song in your heart and sequins in your soul. Delightful.


Rating - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ - magnificent, celebratory, upbeat theatre. Grab a ticket and ticket and don't miss this bus ride!  


Priscilla: Queen of the Desert continues at Curve until Saturday 18th September, tickets are available from www.curveonline.co.uk. The Priscilla tour continues thereafter, visit https://priscillauktour.com/ for full tour dates.

The Priscilla cast. Photo by Darren Bell.

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