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November 27, 2009 | by  | in Arts Theatre |
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Confessions of a Drag Queen

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Confessions of a Drag Queen rides a very fine line. It is half drag floor show with the glamourous Rhubarb Rouge backed up by the equally glamourous Kay Smith and Hayley Sproull dancing and lipsyncing to all the camp classic standards with energy and joy saturating the stage like some kind of obscene fun factory. The other half is more dramatic, an autobiographical monologue from Ricky Beirao, Confessions of a Drag QueenRouge’s real world counterpart. Beirao shows a direct and wonderful honesty in his performance and you cannot help but feel privileged to be invited to share in it. As refreshing as this honesty and directness is it does not really compensate that much for the fact that Beirao is clearly not that comfortable on stage when not Rouge. There is an awkwardness to his delivery that director William Donaldson has clearly worked hard on with Beirao but just not enough to stop a degree of cringe morphing into the audience.

You can also see whipped throughout Confessions of a Drag Queen all the little blips that come from the dangerous writer/performer combination. The structure needs a lot of work, there is an extremely interesting story in this show fighting against an awkward order and presentation to get out. The pace falters often, especially during the middle period of the piece. One feels that the work would have really benefited from an outside script editor or dramaturg to come in and really lash the script into a shape.

trio+2 Donaldson’s direction is inventive and eminently watchable. He displays a wonderful understand of when good old theatric tricks are needed – shadow play and the like – and when just a body in the space is enough. There are many powerful images contained within Confessions, Beirao staring himself down in a mirror as he removes his makeup comes very quickly to mind, and you really wish that they would just trust those images a bit more and let them sit. Paul Tozer’s lighting is delightfully evocative, gloriously playful and, honestly, worth the price of entry alone.

Confessions of a Drag Queen is a lot more promise than delivery. But the promise is so great and the energy is so crushingly joyous that it is only in retrospect that most of the issues become apparent. Flawed and desperately in need of a major reworking as it is, Confessions of a Drag Queen is still a hoot and fun wee night out. Here’s hoping that this is not the end for this show because with a few more work shops under its belt it could really be something.

Confessions of a Drag Queen
Written by Ricky Beirao
Directed by William Donaldson
With Ricky Beirao, Rhubarb Rouge, Kay Smith and Hayley Sproull

At BATS theatre, 25 – 28 November 2009
Book at book@bats.co.nz or (04) 802 4175

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About the Author ()

Uther was one of the two arts editors in 2009. He was the horoscopier and theatre writer in 2010. Alongside Elle Hunt, Uther was coeditor in 2011.

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