Bristol Theatre News

Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the Bristol Hippodrome Review by Chopsy Baby

By Jen Smith

Richard Grieve as Bernadette, Jason Donovan as Tick and Graham Weaver as Felicia - Priscilla Queen of the Desert - Photo credit Paul Coltas
Richard Grieve as Bernadette, Jason Donovan as Tick and Graham Weaver as Felicia – Priscilla Queen of the Desert – Photo: Paul Coltas


I Never thought I would walk out of a theatre at the end of a show wanting to become a drag queen. But that is exactly how I felt at the end of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, currently running at the Bristol Hippodrome.

I have never seen the film and had no idea what to expect with this relatively young person musical. Perhaps a cross between club Reflex and the Queen’s Shilling in the Australian Outback is the best way to describe it.

It says a lot when a show about the mishaps of three drag queens travelling across Australia makes mainstream theatre. As a society it has taken us too long to reach this point. We love these three characters and will them on, but the harsh reality of homophobia does come crashing down a couple of times. It is a stark and shocking moment when we are reminded such simmering bigotry still exists. Despite their big stage personalities, we all share their hurt when they discover their bus has been vandalised.

Tick/Mitzi, Bernadette and Adam/Felicia, are travelling from Sydney to Alice Springs. They are scheduled to perform a show at a casino owned by Tick/Mitzi’s wife. The main aim – unbeknown to the others – is for Tick is to meet his six year old son for the first time.

Along the way, all three go through their own personal ‘journey’ aboard camped up bus Priscilla.

The exuberance, humour and energy of the cast provided laughs throughout, and I only broke my own smile during the two hours twice at particularly poignant moments.

The music of the show is ‘camp classics’ popular within the LGBT community and appropriate within the context of the storyline. The flamboyant costumes, of which there are many are fabulous.

Every cast member was excellent throughout. The three Divas – Emma Kingston, Ellie Leah and Laura Mansell, had phenomenal voices.

Gay drag queen Jason Donovan, navigates well between glamourous Mitzi and the angst ridden dad he wants to be. It’s a beautiful and touching moment when he sits down on his son’s bed to read him a bedtime story for the first time ever.

As aging but beautifully graceful transsexual Bernadette, Richard Grieve radiates class and style.

I’m sure many of us know an Adam/Felicia in real life. He’s rude, camp, obnoxious, Kylie loving and Graham Weaver’s interpretation is effortlessly brilliant

The show manages to miss stereotyping and give us three very deep characters. We see the fun and style of the performers, but also the darkness and sadness behind the feathers and frocks.

This is a really special musical and being billed as the ultimate feel good show is no exaggeration. Whether it’s divas hanging from the flies or an ensemble dancing around a coffin to Don’t Leave Me This Way, this show is a joy and one you won’t want to miss.



At the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 27 April 2013