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Priscilla the Party! review: Hyperactive, immersive and riotously camp

The musical gets 'a new lick of rainbow-coloured paint', writes Attitude's Simon Button

By Simon Button

The cast of Priscilla the Party!
Priscilla: the gift that keeps on giving (Umage: ©Marc Brenner 2)

Hyperactive, immersive and riotously camp, Priscilla the Party! is a musical on steroids. The venue, HERE at Outernet, is a brand-new space that also hosts club nights, so there’s a souped-up sound system that’s so powerful it’s a wonder the myriad disco balls hanging from the ceiling don’t shatter. Feather boas are welcomed and indeed sold at the merch counter. 

You’ll get told off for taking photos during the show but singing and dancing along? This isn’t The Bodyguard. Such behaviour is encouraged, as is heavy drinking. The bars are open throughout the performance and there are two intervals to maximise bar visits.

There’s ‘mezzanine dining’ at a respectable distance from the stage and a few seats downstairs for those who don’t want to shake their groove thing. But the real fun is to be had on the dancefloor. Simon Phillips directs it Guys & Dolls-style, with the audience shunted around as dialogue and dance routines are performed on moveable platforms, making everything very up close and personal.

A new addition to the show, our mistress of ceremonies is Gaye Cliché as played by Trevor Ashley – the sort of old school drag queen you wouldn’t mess with. She manages to keep some kind of order to the proceedings, even as the crowd gets rowdier and some of the subtler plot points (of which, to be fair, there aren’t many) are lost in the cacophony.

Grace Galloway, Sara Louise and Gracie Lai as the Divas (Image: ©Marc Brenner)

Said plot, about three drag artistes travelling across Australia in a battered bus, has been attenuated. Thus elder stateswoman Bernadette (Dakota Star), peacekeeper Tick/Mitzi (Owain Williams) and bratty Adam/Felicia (Reece Kerridge) reach their destination too quickly for there to be much dramatic tension. Tick’s parenting story doesn’t land as touchingly as it should, with an audience participator standing in for his son rather than a proper actor. There’s no bus on stage either, just a projection.

It’s more about frocks on a rock than it is about personal journeys, although the use of a slowed-down Born This Way as an answer to outback prejudice is really poignant. And amping up the camp with one outrageously-costumed song after another adds to the party vibe. There’s even a disco afterwards, making it the perfect hen night destination (the crowd I saw it with was very female-centric) or gays’ night out.

Mamma Mia! The Party came first but, huge fun though it is, it’s a bit of a cheat. It’s a sequel story that bears no narrative resemblance to the original show or movie adaptation and doesn’t feature any key characters from either of them. Priscilla the Party! on the other hand shortens the story but it’s a celebratory staging that gives the show a new lick of rainbow-coloured paint. 

Priscilla the Party! is at HERE at Outernet, London. Get tickets here.