Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at the BGET

November 5, 2013

I used to see critics who reviewed productions they couldn’t make it past the intermission of, in a dim light. But some shows are such an affront to the senses they need to come with a warning.

Of the four productions I couldn’t stick out in my own lifetime, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is the first one I left for reasons other than the production feeling like an utter waste of my time. I was genuinely offended by how tacky, half-baked and exploitative the humour was.

It made a mockery of gay people to entertain the, generally, straight masses.

Using Sister Act for theatrical thinspiration, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert takes the bare bones of a classic, camp and much treasured movie and does away with everything that made it special.

Well formed characters that challenged our preconceptions of those on the fringes of society are replaced by shrieking stereotypes that reinforce every negative perception people have about gay people.

Holding them up for ridicule- by divorcing them from the societal reasons they are the product of, this technicolored migraine preferred to vomit up the exposition, then lift the painted faces of the cast out of the bog and punish us through song.

There’s lots of that catnip of the gays, the bitchy put down, on display. Chum for a middle-aged audience that wanted puns, self-aware asides and potty-mouthed trash talk (with none of the real life emotions that lends them their flavor) as well as a soundtrack that is disco ditty after disco ditty, baring- at the best of times, the most tenuous link to the story.

The whole thing caters to the demands of a hen night, rather than any meaningful story, with each number constructed to attract applause rather than as an expression of what the characters feel.

And oh my God, the costumes. It’s like being defiled by a radioactive Bertie Bassett, dripping in leathers; feathers, sequins and clothing that might make you whoop at their zaniness but only compensate for the total disregard to story.

As a limp-wristed Jason Donovan paraded about the stage I couldn’t help feel like I was being held hostage by a gay minstrel show. As gales of laughter greeted the words “Fuck off Faggots”, spray-painted across the side of the bus, the reality of how much this production had shit the bed, crystallized.

I’m sure there’s plenty of gays who will adore all of the above, who will see this as ‘a good night out’ and be pleased with that. The audience were in hysterics. For me, it was an intolerable abomination that stole the life force of something honest and whored it into a vulgar, almost homophobic, freak show.


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