Review: Priscilla, Edinburgh Playhouse

Anyone unwilling to wholeheartedly embrace extravagant costumes, Eighties disco classics or risqué humour shouldn’t bother buying a ticket to see Priscilla Queen of the Desert at The Edinburgh Playhouse. However, it’ll be money well spent for those looking for a bold, brash, fun alternative to traditional pantomimes this Christmas.

Based on Stephen Elliot’s cult 1994 film of the same name, this glitzy production of Priscilla has an admittedly wafer-thin plot about two drag artists and a transsexual from Sydney who travel across the Australian outback for a series of performances at a casino in Alice Springs. Lead character Tick has an ulterior motive for taking the trip, unbeknown to his friends, in that he has an eight-year-old son that he has never met before.

What the show lacks in depth and intelligence, it more than makes up for in flamboyance and humour. The costumes, including some outrageously fabulous dresses which are inspired by paintbrushes, are a visual spectacle, whilst I Will Survive, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and Boogie Wonderland are just some highlights of a soundtrack that features almost every upbeat disco classic imaginable.

Jason Donovan is in fine form as Tick, striking the perfect balance between tongue-in-cheek humour and vulnerability, but it is Scots star Karen Dunbar who momentarily manages to steals the show with her hilarious (but far too brief) guest appearance as Shirley, a redneck bartender who is appalled when the trio dare to turn up at her bar and try to order cocktails.

Simon Green brings an unmistakable warmth to Bernadette, the eldest and most jaded of the three principal characters, and his comedic timing is spot on when delivering her gloriously offensive one-liners.

Sparkly, carefree and over-the-top – what’s not to love about Priscilla?

Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Lane, Edinburgh, until Saturday 2 January 2016, 7:30pm, 0844 871 3014.

Words: Amy Anderson