Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
Derngate Northampton.
Five Stars

Runs until Saturday 9 April (then at other theatres nationwide)

What to do on a wintery and blustery night when it is raining so hard that the River Nene burst its banks and closed the road to Northampton?

We had tickets for Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the Derngate. We are so lucky with our local theatre. This week, for instance, we had the choice of Priscilla on the big stage or Shakespeare’s King Lear in the more intimate Royal.

We took the road less travelled and opted for Priscilla, but nearly called it off when it proved such a shitty evening and the road we usually travel proved hubcap deep in flood water.

Today everything from Women’s Hour to East Enders deals with transvestite, trans-gender, trans-sexual or even drag queen issues – If you need an totally accurate explanation of any of those terms do what I will do – ask your teenage granddaughter. Back in 1994 when the film was first made this was brave virtually unexplored ground.

Unlike with most stage musicals where the normal gestation is book; stage show; film; Priscilla started as a movie. The stage show, the one we saw tonight, came along ten years later.

The plot is simple. Three, slightly past their sell-by-date, female impersonators cross the Australian desert in an unreliable ancient Aussie school bus they name Priscilla. They are heading for Alice Springs to put on a show.

Priscilla 1141 Photo by Paul Coltas HI RES_smaller

Along the way they meet predictable hard drinking red-necks, homophobia, violence, and prejudice.

Less predictably they meet a little romance, men only bars, an outback skiffle group and an exotic dancer who can do such remarkable things with what Boris Johnson calls wiff waff balls that you will never be able to think about the Mayor of London in the same way again.

But the plot is mainly incidental. This show is all about colour, noise, music, dance numbers and hundreds of quick change amazing costumes. It must be the rudest, raunchiest, hottest musical to grace the Derngate stage for years.

Add to that flying divas, almost unbelievable performances by Simon Green as Bernadette and Rebecca Botterill who stepped out of the chorus line to replace a sick fellow actor in playing the part of the ping pong ball dancer and the show earns my five star rating.

I’m so glad we made the journey, no not from home to the theatre but the warm and sunny ride from Sydney to Alice Springs on board Priscilla Queen of the Desert. A drag it certainly wasn’t.

Peter Frost.


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