Friday, December 9

An Evening with Ms Sharon LeGrand & Friends – unity Theatre

The theme for this year’s Homotopia festival – Queer Joy Is A Protest! – could not be more accurately represented than in An Evening with Ms Sharon LeGrand & Friends.

Liverpool’s annual LGBTQIA+ arts showcase is the UK’s longest running celebration of queer culture and it just seems to go from strength to strength. This year, fresh from causing outrage in the nation’s capital, drag queen Sharon LeGrand returns to her native Merseyside to host an evening of cabaret at the Unity Theatre.

Sticklers for the Trade Descriptions Act might be a tad disappointed. There appear to be more friends of Ms LeGrand in the audience than on the stage with her. Each introduction only happens thanks to a shouted reminder from the wings of the next act’s name.

Even our host declares the show should more accurately be called ‘An Evening with soon to be friends…’. Or is it all part of the act? Either way it’s hilariously endearing.

The stage of Liverpool’s Unity 1 space is empty aside from a percussion and brass setup and a DJ booth pasted with posters from previous Homotopia festivals. One declares: ‘Resist! Resist! Or Cease to Exist!’: an interesting contrast to this year’s message.

Ladies of Midnight Blue open and close the night with the most joyful and playful set of African and Latin inspired drumming. Genuinely extraordinary.

For her homecoming, Ms LeGrand appears in a suitably fabulous outfit that appears to bridge the divide between panto dame and Captain Jack Sparrow. The ‘third prize’ rosette is a masterstroke.

The compering might be chaotically exuberant but it’s right on message. Unapologetically celebrating ourselves is, in itself, a protest against the often exhausting times queer people have to live through.

That’s not to say this is a thoughtless cabaret without message. A hauntingly beautiful lip sync from Dan Chan and some stunning poetry from Homotopia Artist in Residence Tabby Lamb are real highlights.

The night soon descends into downright delightful disorder though, foreshadowed by our host’s costume change into a sexy Mr Blobby outfit that has to be seen to be believed.

Breath-taking circus skills from Grace Neville-Evans make way for the indescribably nonconformist Auntie Climax. If Baz Luhrmann had seen Climax’s Elvis ‘act’ perhaps his recent movie would have taken a slightly different turn.

LeGrand superfans will be delighted to enjoy her legendary handbag song. A number relying on a joke so simple and silly and repetitive that it should stop working halfway through. Instead, it is laugh out loud funny every time.

The night is billed as being built around one star but in reality, every performer is living their best life and showing proper talent. However, our emcee is on another level. Viciously funny and honestly emotional about returning home in front of family.

The best cabaret needs to combine great talent and superb hosting. This has both in spades but, more importantly, it has an important message too: unadulterated joy is a protest.

Homotopia continues at various Liverpool venues until 20th November, more information and ticket details can be found at https://www.homotopia.net/

Reviewer: Peter Ruddick

Reviewed: 12th November 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★

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