Review: Priscilla the Party!, HERE at Outernet

Priscilla the Party! taps into its queer spirit beautifully in this immersive production at HERE at Outernet

“A bus full of drag queens can’t be that hard to find”

On the one hand, you can look at Priscilla the Party! on a hen-party-tastic surface level, all pink feather boas and really very good cocktails. A range of seating and standing options mean you can pick and choose how immersed you want to be in the production (be warned, standing does mean being shuffled around a la Guys and Dolls to accommodate moving stages). And the jukebox selection of iconic pop songs means a raucous good time is guaranteed.

But on the other hand, as it is 30 years since The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert hit cinemas and 15 since its musical adaptation first played in the West End (with revivals since), something about Priscilla feels elemental. As representations of queer culture have evolved and drag has become mainstream in a way few could have predicted, Stephan Elliott’s writing remains a touchstone for its simplicity and its profundity, something which truly shines through in Simon Phillips’ adaptation here.

It’s in the recognition that authenticity doesn’t just have to mean getting the most famous Australian former soap star possible in the company, it can mean intentional casting from the community. A non-binary person playing Bernadette (a superb Dakota Starr), building on previous strong work from Terence Stamp and Tony Sheldon but hitting home so much harder here. Having someone who actually does drag IRL playing Adam/Felicia in Reece Kerridge whose fabulousness swings in like a wrecking ball.

It’s also in the updating of the songlist to amp up the amount of Kylie (incontrovertibly the gayest icon of them all now) and add in a touch of Gaga to make it speak to today, whilst retaining so many of the classics (‘It’s Raining Men’!, ‘Go West’!, ‘Hot Stuff’!). It’s also in sticking to the core message of the importance of family, whether birth or chosen or both, and the boldness to be able to stand up to hatred and homophobia even as it cuts so very deep.

So yeah, it’s a hugely enjoyable reconception of the show which oozes in quality. From the sensational vocals of The Divas Grace Galloway, Gracie Lai and Sara Louise to the energetic joy of Andrew Hallsworth’s choreography, the brilliant video design of Brian Thomson and Justin Nardella making the most of the sophisticated facilities of venue HERE at Outernet, the assured compering of Trevor Ashley’s Gaye Cliché to the grounded sincerity of Owain Williams’ Tick/Mitzi always pushing them forwards.

A big shout-out too to the stage management and FOH teams. Wrangling audiences this way can’t ever be easy but they do a great job of it here and smiling service just keeps the vibes going perfectly (and encourages you to get just one more cocktail every time…the blue coconut punch would be my recommendation!). Grab a friend, grab three, get your sparkliest items of clothing and get on down under for a party to remember.

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