Going to see Priscilla Queen of the Desert is more than going to see a show it is about taking part in an experience. You can take in your champagne and pop the cork, order an interval cocktail or buy a fake pink feather boa to display through the show. As you enter the auditorium you are confronted with a large (phallic) lipstick and Australia represented as lips. Yes this sets the tone of what is a loud, bright, entertaining and feel good afternoon/evening full of one line jokes and sexual innuendo.
Priscilla adopts a pantomime structure to construct narrative. I say this, not just because men dress up as women, but in the way the production builds on small episodes which reflect each other. The three drag queens (Jason Donovan, Oliver Thornton and Tony Sheldon) leave the safe domesticity (Sydney) for the journey into the unknown (the Australian bush) to confront the baddies. As well as journeying, there’s also a quest. Tick/Mitzi (Jason Donovan) has to get to Alice Springs in a battered old bus to meet his son Benji. Each scene is a variation of the one before, but more sparkle and glamour and then there is the big finale and everyone lives happily ever after. There’s even the moment, in most pantomimes, where the audience get on the stage and join in. There’s the in jokes, particulary when it comes to a mention of the Austrailian soap Neighbours and Kylie. We get a sense of Kylie’s career, but also how far Jason Donovan has moved on, even though, it felt that, he still looks the same as he did when he was Scott Robinson.
There was an additional moment of excitement when I saw Priscilla and the mechanics broke down after Oliver Thornton was performing Follie! Delirio Vano E Questo! and Sempre Libera on top of a Jewel encrusted stiletto shoe which was positioned on the roof of tour bus. He was stuck up there for longer than he should. There was a bit of ad libbing and they got him down in the end.
As part of the experience it had to end with a standing ovation. Great songs, spectacular costumes and lot a glitz and glamour. It felt like a day off.