Reviewed by Lindsay Harris
Joyful exuberance, showstopping costumes and dance-floor classics… Priscilla, Queen of the Desert has sashayed into Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre just in time to brighten up our dark autumn evenings.
Adapted from the 1994 movie, ‘Priscilla’ has always been one of my favourite films, so it was with a mixture of excitement and apprehension that I waited for the curtain to lift. Would this cult comedy translate to the stage?
The resounding answer is YES. The funny and feel-good adventure of Tick, Bernadette and Felicia is even more exuberant and outrageous on the stage, with more glitz than you could shake a feather boa at. Telling the story of three drag artists who travel across Australia in a bus called Priscilla, it’s a heart-warming tale of friendship, tolerance and embracing your dreams.
Featuring sing-along tunes such as It’s Raining Men, I Will Survive and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, the dance numbers and costumes are spectacular, and will leave you humming to yourself long after you’ve left the theatre.
Amongst such flamboyant costumes and showy dance numbers, it could be easy for the smaller character moments to get lost, but the show is peppered with heart-wrenching moments as our three friends inevitably encounter a lack of tolerance or outright hostility from the locals. The actors navigate the transition from humour to darkness and back again with aplomb, and Nick Hayes in particular deserves recognition for his portrayal of Felicia/Adam.
The set design is fabulous, and the bus becomes a character in itself as it undergoes a transformation from tatty old transport into the gloriously pink ‘Priscilla’. The queen is worthy of her title.
The Mayflower Theatre underwent its own transformation back in 2018, and the auditorium is decked out in rich red and glowing gold, which adds a sense of luxury and occasion to the evening. I was pleased to read that the renovation also boosted accessibility. Wheelchair spaces and discounted companion seats are available, and the theatre encourages you to speak to their Box Office team if you have special seating or access requirements.
Of course we’re all reinventing ourselves in the light of Covid-19, and the Mayflower Theatre is no exception. To help us all feel safe, they’re increasing air circulation, providing hand sanitising stations and their friendly team are wearing face coverings. Given the outlandish costume design you’ll see on stage, this is a great excuse to pull out your most outrageous one!
Given the trials of the last couple of years we all deserve a chance to let our hair down, and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is the perfect way to do it. The energy given off by the talented cast is contagious, and you’ll be clapping and buzzing with excitement from the start. If you’re anything like me, you’ll leave the theatre grinning from ear to ear.
A glittering spectacular, full of friendship and laughs, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is highly recommended. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and shake your groove thing!
Tickets cost from £24.50 (booking fees may apply).
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is at the Mayflower Theatre from 4th – 9th October 2021. For more information or to book tickets visit https://www.mayflower.org.uk/whats-on/priscilla-queen-of-the-desert-2021/ or call the box office on 02380 711811.
Mayflower Theatre 22-26 Commercial Rd, Southampton SO15 1GE