Saturday, May 25

Priscilla Queen of the Desert – Stockport Plaza

Sometimes, reviewing theatre productions can be a bit like pulling hens teeth. You sit there, you get acted at, you clap then you leave. All very nice, but you can’t say very much about what you’ve seen. Then there are the nights when you get blown away by a production. A production so good, you can’t stop saying things about it. I saw one of those tonight.

By any criteria you can name, this production of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert was a joy from start to finish. I guess you will know the plot by now. Three drag queens schlep across Australia in an old bus, (the titular Priscilla). They encounter the sort of people who don’t take naturally to people who are different. They are despised, assaulted in the vilest way. One finds romance, one a family but they all have adventures they wouldn’t come across in their safe Sydney world. However, they maintain their spirit and drive so that Tick can get to see his son. Oh, and there’s a couple of musical numbers along the way. So, let’s start with the music.

From the overture, which, under the direction of Paul Lawton was tight and together all night.  Goodness did they produce a brilliant sound. The intricacy of disco music or the melody of Jerome Kern didn’t faze this orchestra.

The principal cast of Bernadette, Tick and Adam as presented by Paul Allison, Gary Jones and Steve Cheeseman strutted their stuff, as you would expect of a drag trio, with terrific aplomb, but they also had great acting reserves to make their more human emotions ring true. These were performances of the highest calibre.  

Quite how you knock out a song whilst being suspended above the stage is an art that escapes me. Fortunately, Dawn Leigh, Sarah Thewis and Aimee Clare as the “divas” who move the action like a camp Greek chorus, manage to achieve the skill with room to spare. Great skill and wonderful singing.

There was strength in depth from the second line leads too in particular John Harrison as Miss Understanding, Lee Keen as Bob and Claire Egerton as Shirley who made the most of this great part.

The chorus, well, if I have a criticism, there were perhaps too many on stage at some points, but I completely understand that every society member would want to be in this show. Having said that they were brilliantly disciplined, and each displayed an individual character, which showed. No mean feat in a crowd.

The whole thing was choreographed with style by Tracey Harper, she must have had her work cut out for her with all the different styles of dance required! So thorough was she, there did not appear to be a foot out of place on the opening night. I’ll mention here the fabulous costumes which add to the spectacle.

My final plaudit goes to Michael McCaw who has marshalled this huge show with the sort of precision which comes from an experienced hand. He wastes not a moment of stage time and has delivered a show full of heart, musicality and great performances.

Priscilla is of course a night of fun, but it also serves to remind us that some attitudes have stayed entrenched, but some have moved forward since we first encountered the Aussie artistes in 1994. A great production – don’t miss this chance to see it.

Runs until Saturday 16th March. Tickets from Stockport Plaza website.

Reviewer: Philip Edwards

Reviewed: 12th March 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.