Tag Archives: drag

Cabaret Review: Sheila Simmonds’ Christmas Cracker (Leicester Square Theatre, London)

Richard Rhodes as Sheila Simmonds.

Richard Rhodes as Sheila Simmonds.

Rating: *****

In A Nutshell

A frantic festive frolic from our Aussie Queen of home shopping. The Christmas party you wish you could throw!

Overview

Richard Rhodes, also known as Cookie Monstar, brings his other drag creation, Sheila Simmonds, to the Leicester Square Theatre for a festive romp to end all festive romps. Party games, competitions, celebrity guests, and songs agogo, this sassy songstress, storyteller, and #busylady brings all the Christmas cheer to the yard.

Structure/Writing

Rhodes, in collaboration with Stuart Saint, has created a night of true variety: a one-lady music hall tour de force. The evening goes from camp indulgences to audience participation skits, all with meticulous kitsch aplomb. It means that no-one ever really tires of a particular sketch or skit before it moves swiftly onto the next. You’ve got everything from 1990s family entertainment throwbacks, to salacious (and sometimes beautifully blasphemous) Christmas tales, songs, canapes, prizes, a disco-dancing hunk, and even a spot of roller skating.

Most surprising about the show isn’t the wonderful tongue-in-cheek shocks that pepper Sheila’s act, but that, in comparison to the sin-sational Sleeping Bootybilled immediately before and other drag shows, Sheila Simmonds’ Christmas Cracker is surprisingly wholesome. Even though there’s plenty of cheek and innuendo, what Rhodes does marvellously in this show is bottle a wonderful sense of joy, celebration, and community that comes with the season. Yes, it’s more adult than Boxing Day lunch with the grandparents (or so I’d hope!) but the smut is second place to the abundance of old school festive fun and reminisce. Each step of the way, the show is an exquisitely gift-wrapped hoot.

There is also a great sense of satire here too, especially in the right royal send up of home shopping channels. This wit also runs through rapaciously fun songs such as “The Old Pound Shop in Croydon”, where you can’t help but laugh and smile from deely bopper to deely bopper as a result of Sheila’s scathing observations and knowing nods.

Performance

Rhodes is a superlative cabaret performer, having the honour of being the first male to be awarded the title of “Forces Sweetheart” for his work entertaining British Troops as Cookie Monstar. As Sheila, the same wit and warmth is still present, just dressed instead in an Australian accent and lots of pink polyester. As is critical with any cabaret act, Sheila is able to riff off the audience’s energy and interactions with inspired moments of improvisation and spontaneous wit, making them as just as crucial a part of the show as the scandalous quips and the Werther’s Originals. You can’t help but be charmed from start to finish by Sheila’s ineffable personality. Furthermore, Rhodes must be congratulated on the excessive energy he pours into Sheila and the show, both in charisma and physicality, never flagging and always exuding a brilliant sense of humour and hospitality.

Verdict

A Christmas variety show so glamorous and lovable it makes Kylie look second rate. A perfectly bonza capture of traditional Christmas mayhem with a twist of camp and cheeky flare. Expertly entertaining. #loveit.

Sheila Simmonds’ Christmas Cracker plays at the Leicester Square Theatre, London, WC2B 7BX, on selected dates until 3 January 2015. Tickets are £15 (concessions available). To book, visit www.leicestersquaretheatre.com.

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Cabaret Review: Briefs: The Second Coming (London Wonderground, London)

Evil Hate Monkey expertly plays with Captain Kidd's ring! Photograph: Courtesy of Roy Tan.

Evil Hate Monkey expertly plays with Captain Kidd’s ring! Photograph: Courtesy of Roy Tan.

Rating: *****

In A Nutshell

Outrageous, arousing, and utterly gob-smacking. Rethink everything you thought you ever knew about circus and burlesque, because you ain’t seen nothing yet!

Overview

Aussie performance troupe return to London Wonderground with their show Briefs: The Second Coming, after a successful stint at Glastonbury, with several new and rebooted elements. A fusion of circus, cabaret, drag, and burlesque, it’s the most surprising, sexy, and scandalous show the capital has ever seen.

Production

Everything is as slick, glitzy, and sumptuous as you could ever imagine. For starters, the costumes really are as show-stopping as the acts themselves: this is by no means the bargain bin at Anne Summers. The outfits are as intricate as they are provocative, and impress as much as they titillate. Yet the attire is just the first glimpse of a high-end and meticulous production that is hidden behind the show’s anarchic energy and inglorious affront.

Particularly, there is a real attention and embrace of aesthetics here that take this far beyond being a mere pumped-up peep show. Everything from UV osterich feathers, to well executed lighting design, really augment the acts. The performers themselves already have an intrinsic sense of visual artistry in what they do. But the production just makes these into even more stunning moments, turning them into gasp-out-loud acts of daring debauchery.

A tiny criticism is that some of the interludes (particularly in covering set changes) means the pace can sometimes drop too quickly from heart-pounding sexual octane or dizzying acrobatics, leaving you a little bewildered and agitated as it’s an awkward come down. However, these bits of padding thankfully have their own sense of joy that make them feel as integral to the show as the more rehearsed and climactic sequences.

One other criticism is that there is one moment that probably takes good/bad taste a little too far, and is certainly not something that is for the weak of stomach. Whilst merely attending a male drag burlesque show means you’re not one to be easily offended, one particular scene (not giving too much away) does push comfort zones a little too much; some may find it rather unnecessary even within the pervy pretext of the show. But as long as you view it as outlandish and risqué as the rest of the evening, you’ll still be able to at least produce a shriek and a guffaw between the dry-retching!

Performers

Every performer in the show brings something as unique and amazing as the next. But as a troupe, they bristle with a filthy wit and eroticism that is unmatched by anything else that you’ll have ever seen. Hostess Fez Faanana/Shivannah is as sassy a drag queen compère at they come, adding a ridiculous camp and sharp glamour to the proceedings as she expertly works the crowd. Dallas Dellaforce’s drag interludes are also salacious and shocking, making “Priscilla” look tacky and tame by comparison.

Physical performers Captain Kidd, Evil Hate Monkey, Thom Worrell, and Louis Biggs are all also at the prime of their talent, absolutely wowing you in such a manner that they take you from behind by complete surprise. There are moments where your jaws will drop with amazement (or cringe in disbelief) at just how astonishing their skills are. Even if you’ve seen these kind of circus acts before, these boys pull out all the stops, raising the bar and executing some genuinely unique and gob-smacking tricks that really makes this a superlative spectacle. You just can’t wait to see what feat they’re going to pull next as well as what item of clothing will disappear with it. Particular mention must go to Captain Kidd, who’s “birdbath” grand finale takes your breath away, whilst simultaneously making you literally wet with excitement (especially if you’re in the first few rows).

These are also a band of performers who are sexy and know it. I know it’s a little cheap to so openly lust over performers in a review, but if a burlesque night doesn’t make your groins stir with delight then it’s not doing its job properly. And, by Jove, do these boys know how to get your blood pumping to those more intimate areas. They revel in the knowing fact that they are some of the most achingly gorgeous performers on the circuit, and do their best to expertly tease as they do dazzle. But even then, they play with both being cheeky and humorous by sending up traditional burlesque with steamy satire, as well as pushing the modern boundaries of the genre. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at a yo-yo again without getting at least a semi!

Verdict

Put this altogether and there were moments where I didn’t know whether to applaud wildly, laugh, be reviled, or cross my legs! Hot, haughty, and hilarious, this a mesmerising kaleidoscope of sleaze and mind-blowing performances unlike anything else. I’ve never wanted to run away to the circus so badly! #woof

[youtube http://youtu.be/Ft7WxWbON2s]

Briefs: The Second Coming plays at the London Wonderground, London, SE1 8XX, until 28 September 2014. Tickets are £16.50-£21.50. To book, visit www.londonwonderground.co.uk.


Theatre Review: Viva La Drag (Leicester Square Theatre, London)

Proud "Marys". The Supreme Fabulettes in action. Photograph: Courtesy of Kevin Wilson PR.

Proud “Marys”. The Supreme Fabulettes in action. Photograph: Courtesy of Kevin Wilson PR.

Rating: ****

The Supreme Fabulettes are back, and this time glitzier and more dazzling than ever. Their new show, directed by none other than Kylie Minogue’s Creative Director, William Baker, is a full length romp through the decades with close harmony singing tighter than their corsets and more impressive than their weaves. For this show, they chart the 50 year story of their group, shedding light on a disgraced fourth member, Silver Summers, and introducing their Aussie dresser and “Drag Mother”, Sheila Simmonds.

All the trappings of what’s expected of a drag show are there; catty remarks, dubious double entendres, high barnets, and glittering outfits that put QVC’s Diamonique hour to shame. But what’s truly astonishing is the mixing of slick musical numbers with the standard campery creating a combination that is both rib-tickling and genuinely entertaining.

What’s more, the group never mime any of their songs. Everything is sung live and sung brilliantly. It’s done so well that there are moments that are so pitch-perfect that you’re actually surprised that what you’re hearing isn’t pre-recorded or doctored in any way whatsoever.

As for the show itself, the shtick is more outrageous than ever, causing the entire audience to whoop and howl with laughter and delight throughout the entire evening. Some of the highlights are a marvellous tribute to Kander and Ebb classic Chicago, and irreverent swipes of Pierce Morgan and TV talent(less) show, The Voice.

But all is not perfect in this sparkling spectacle. The country music medley, which included new song ‘A Drag Queen is a Cowboy’s Best Friend’ penned by Boy George (which in itself is quite fun, see below), was the weakest part, being not as confident and feeling less inspired than any of the other routines. Also, the original trio of Vicky Vivacious, Portia de Fosse, and Vanilla Lush are sometimes upstaged by their guests. Sheila Simmonds’ entr’actes are side-splittingly funny with banter as marvellous as it comes, and Silver Summers is one of the most astonishing male vocalists I’ve ever heard in heels and a wig, with a rendition of ‘The Crying Game’ that will knock your socks off. Although both Silver and Sheila are incredible and superb additions to the show, it’s a shame that they distract from the rapport and candour of the founding members that has been one of the keys to their success thus far.

But overall, the Supreme Fabulettes take drag to dizzying new heights, redefining the art of female impersonation with all its kitsch and cliché sensibilities into something that is genuinely enthralling and original. A divine night out that is more fun than you can have with your shirt off.

Viva La Drag plays at the Leicester Square Theatre, London, WC2H 7BX, until 29 June 2013. Tickets are £22.50. To book visit www.leicestersquaretheatre.com.