Priscilla the musical sets up camp at Palace Theatre

PUBLISHED: 14:13 16 April 2009 | UPDATED: 16:06 07 September 2010

PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT Palace Theatre Three star rating Priscilla the musical is like an attention-seeking friend, likeable, amusing but relentlessly in your face. There s precious little downtime in this impressively slick parade of costume chang

PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT

Palace Theatre

Three star rating

Priscilla the musical is like an attention-seeking friend, likeable, amusing but relentlessly in your face.

There's precious little downtime in this impressively slick parade of costume changes and camp disco classics as we follow three drag queens on a trans-Australia bus ride to appear in Alice Springs.

What is exhilarating at first, becomes exhausting after two hours.

But just when you could do with a quiet duologue to flesh out the relationships between ageing transsexual Bernadette, young buck Adam and middle-aged Tick, there's another set of garish frocks and off we twirl into a Kylie or Donna Summer track.

Stephan Elliott, who wrote and directed the film has - with Allan Scott - pared down the script to bitchy queeny one liners and jettisoned much that made the original interesting.

Gone is the nuanced interplay between three generations of "gender illusionists".

Gone too the intriguing juxtaposition of two marginalised groups as the trio break down in the outback and spend an evening with aborigines.

Instead we have a jiving performer who "dresses up as an abo for the tourists".

The redneck denizens of Broken Hill and Cooper Pedy are straight out of central casting - grubby vests, mullets and hats with corks. Consequently the homophobia that erupts isn't frightening and there is too little at stake.

But glossing over the dark stuff to concentrate on yet another number where three silver-costumed divas descend from above won't frighten the broader audience this hopes to appeal to.

It is only when Jason Donovan's heartsore Tick is reunited with the six-year-old son he has never met that the glitterball stops turning for a second to focus on a human moment.

Director Simon Phillips keeps the whole glittering spectacle on the road, and delivers some uplifting moments - Oliver Thornton perfectly captures Adam's narcissistic selfishness as he mimes outrageously to Verdi atop the dusty bus.

And he cuts a powerful figure astride Ayers Rock paying homage to Kylie.

Until further notice.

Bridget Galton

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