'Priscilla The Party!' review – let your hair down at this immersive shindig

Read our review of the drag-infused event road trip Priscilla The Party!, now in performances at HERE at Outernet to 30 September.

Matt Wolf
Matt Wolf

It’s raining sexual innuendo at Priscilla The Party!, the social lubricant of a show that follows on from Mamma Mia! The Party and Guys & Dolls in offering a quasi-immersive experience that, we’re told from the off, could be titled in this instance Gays and Dolls.

That in itself pretty much sums up the landscape of a cheerful enough entertainment that also manages to seem rather pointless. I’ve seen comparable headgear, not to mention similarly OTT frocks, at many a boite around town. And no fashion parade should have to follow the Oscar and Tony-winning forbears that exist in the collective memory for many of us, even if Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner are the protean designers on hand once again.

As for the 1994 film, and the stage musical that followed, writer-director Stephan Elliott’s road movie here exists in barely synoptic form amid a short evening marked out with two intervals whose primary purpose is to encourage patrons to partake liberally of the bar. (I can attest to some ace margaritas and excellent beef tacos.)

Trevor Ashley’s fiercely insistent Gaye Cliche acts as compere for this picaresque tale. It’s 1993, Kylie is the name on everyone’s lips, and two drag queens and one trans woman find themselves aboard a bus called Priscilla making hay as they traverse the parched environs of the desert from Sydney to Alice Springs. They are fuelled all the while with quips that flow lubriciously from the tongue.

The married Tick (Owain Williams), aka Mitzi, leads a trio that includes the tart-tongued, grief-stricken Bernadette/Ralph (Dakota Starr) and a fresh-faced fellow traveller in Adam/Felicia, who rocks out at one point on the Donna Summer number “Hot Stuff” and gets chased through the crowd.

The songs invite karaoke-level participation, the fusillade of hits letting up now and again to chart parallel stories that allow families to be made whole and love unexpectedly to bloom. Steven Serlin takes acting honours amongst the cast as the sweet-natured Bob, the mechanic who finds emotional sustenance and shelter amidst the outré frocks and verbal tomfoolery.

The young son needed to satisfy the plot falls to an adult volunteer from the crowd; actual children, you'll not be surprised to hear, are not allowed into the glittery realm of the Cockatoo Club, with japery to match: an incidental Tom Cruise broadside made me laugh.

“Relive the experience,” we’re told at the outset, and that can be difficult if you harbour fond memories, as I do, of Tony Sheldon’s Tony-nominated Bernadette back in the day. Or of the Terence Stamp movie whose landscapes were as mesmerising as its stars.

But this incarnation may work well enough for groups keen to let their hair down after a busy week at work, or for those patrons frustrated by such notional knees-ups as Grease and Dirty Dancing where patrons are restricted to their seats. Here it’s your party and you can dance if you want to.

Priscilla The Party! is at HERE at Outernet to 30 September. Book Priscilla The Party! tickets on London Theatre.

Book Tickets CTA - LT/NYTG

Photo credit: Priscilla The Party! (Photo by Marc Brenner)

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