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Theatre, Music

Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert

Screen Shot 2021 08 25 at 15.08.55

At the New Theatre Oxford until Saturday 28 th August

A standing ovation is how Priscilla Queen of the Desert concluded last night, and a standing
ovation is certainly what the cast deserved. After five hundred and twenty five days of an
empty stage, this was the perfect way for the New Theatre to reopen: with glamour, glitter,
and a huge array of colourful wigs.

The musical follows three Australian drag queens as they road-trip across the outback, on a
mission to reach the other side of the country for an epic comeback show. However, it is
defined not by the heartwarming storyline of pride and acceptance, important as this is, but
the soundtrack. Musically, it’s difficult to go wrong with disco classics such as Boogie
Wonderland, Hot Stuff, I Will Survive, and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, but the three Divas,
Claudia Kariuki, Aiesha Peace, and Rosie Glossop, produce expert renditions. In glittering
white mini dresses and coiffed blonde wigs, they provide the perfect counterbalance to the
rainbow feathers and sequins donned by the rest of the cast.

Beyond the epic songs, this is what stands out most – the costumes. Perhaps this is to be
expected in a show centred on the world of drag, but each is more outlandish and exciting
than the last, with the cast switching at breakneck speed, executing choreography as
cowboys, and then as paintbrushes, and then as cupcakes, with extravagant hats to match.
Even the makeup, bright swathes of pink and blue eyeshadow with bold eyebrows and
glittery lipstick seems to have been perfectly applied within the three minutes of Thank God
I’m A Country Boy.

Although very occasionally their Australian accents wavered, Edwin Ray, Miles Western, and
Nick Hayes are the powerful trio at the centre, overflowing with vigour and enthusiasm. This
is echoed by the ensemble, who keep up with huge songs and complex dance sequences,
and in heels, making it all the more impressive. While, Ray and Western both impress with
their perfect choreography, it is Hayes, as Felicia, who steals the show. It is difficult to take
your eyes off him, and his quick wit and perfect lip syncing is unmatched by the other two.

Tackled sensitively, in a performance that is otherwise stuffed with humour and innuendo,
with bold but well executed jokes that have the entire audience laughing, are the more
sinister scenes. The physical threat of rural Australian locals, blatantly transphobic and
uncomfortable with people unlike themselves, is not just skipped over but handled carefully
and tastefully by Western as Bernadette. Similarly, the celebration of parenthood prompts
collective cooing from the audience, a recurring theme tied together with acoustic renditions
of I Say A Little Prayer. These quieter scenes, especially those between Ray and his son,
provide an ideal counterbalance to the otherwise ceaseless energy of the cast.

Producer Jason Donavon put it perfectly when he claimed ‘this show is going to unite us. It’s
about coming together, it’s about survival, it’s very uplifting.’ I can’t imagine anyone left the
theatre without a smile on their face, and a renewed excitement about all the bright colourful
things that are on the horizon now the world is opening up again.


nik kershaw
Fri 31 May 2024

Nik Kershaw’s debut album Human Racing came out in 1984 and saw him dominating the singles chart with tracks including Wouldn’t It Be Good, I Won’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me and Dancing Girls. Swiftly followed by The Riddle, Nik spent 62 weeks in the charts and was one of the musicians to play Live Aid in July 1985.

Nell Mescal pwj9ug
Fri 31 May 2024

For the uninitiated, Nell Mescal (yes, sister of actor Paul) is an Irish singer-songwriter who hit the festival circuit hard last summer, playing (amongst others) The Great Escape, BST Hyde Park, Boardmasters and Live at Leeds. This year, she’s headed to Oxfordshire and Alex James’ Big Feastival for August bank holiday weekend. Eloise Lonsdale caught up with her to find out more about her musical style and her recently launched EP, Can I Miss it For a Minute.

Sea Girls Credit Blacksocks qoafap
Fri 31 May 2024

2024’s Truck line-up looks to be one of its best yet, balancing big names with emerging artists and beloved regulars. As an event, it has come to mark start of the summer holidays for its devoted attendees, but how about the acts? We caught up with Oli Khan, drummer in indie-rock band Sea Girls to get the bands-eye view.

Corinne Bailey Rae
Wed 1 May 2024

Corinne Bailey Rae’s Put Your Records On snap-shotted the summer of 2006. Her most recent release, Black Rainbows came out 2023 and it is obvious to hear how much she is relishing the full range of her unique voice and, as I was to discover when we spoke, her extraordinarily lyrical vocabulary.