Photo: Marc Brenner

Ah, Priscilla – a film many of us will have fond memories of, and indeed may well have been a formative moment in many a queer person’s youth. There already exists a stage show, which some will have experienced a while ago, and this new immersive production – Priscilla the Party! – is based on that, but with an updated selection of songs. It’s opened at London’s new HERE at Outernet venue and will be playing all summer.

It’s an immersive experience in the same way that Guys & Dolls has been at The Bridge Theatre over the past year – in that, while there are some seats, many audience members are stood in a ‘pit’ style configuration with the action happening around them, and are shepherded around as bits of staging move across the floor. Actual audience participation is quite limited – although there is one significant role to be played by a willing volunteer – but the crowd is often encouraged to sing and dance along, and there’s a bit of back-and-forth with Gaye Cliché (Trevor Ashley), our host for the evening.

One thing to note about this production is that there’s no bus. Yes, you read that right – the story following two drag queens and one trans woman driving their bus from Sydney to Alice Springs doesn’t actually feature a bus at all: it’s simply a projection on the screen. It’s disappointing, but clearly the set and props budget has been kept to a minimum in order to splash out on the costumes, which we must say are great – there are countless outfit changes, and they really look the part. Even the supporting cast have some wonderful costumers.

The cast is pretty solid. Our three leads – Owain Williams as Tick/Mitzi, Dakota Starr as Bernadette, and Reece Kerridge as Adam/Felicia – are convincingly similar to their on-screen counterparts. Of particular note we enjoyed the trio of divas who serenaded us at various points, displaying some real vocal prowess.

We did have a couple of issues with this production, however. One is that it feels very geared towards the party crowd – yes, we’re aware there’s a clue in the title – but there were moments where it felt less like a theatre show and more an excuse to get drunk. Despite being barely two hours long, there are actually two intervals – and we’re basically told, in no uncertain terms, to go to the bar each time. It did feel a little uncomfortable to be so proactively encouraged to keep drinking.

In addition, while we’re aware that this is based on source material that’s about 30 years old, there were a few scenes which didn’t land too well. Some of the representation felt dated to the point of being a bit racist, while a handful of the homophobic remarks really just felt quite uncomfortable. We’re sure there must have been a better way of sensitively updating and representing these moments.

On the whole, though, Priscilla the Party! is a feel-good night out. It’s at its best during the big song and dance numbers – with a delightfully queer soundtrack and high-camp costumes and choreography, it sure makes for an entertaining evening.

GAY TIMES gives Priscilla the Party! – 3/5

More information can be found here.