Happily Ever Poofter
Above the Stag
Reviewed – 2nd July 2019
“this is a frivolous, fun fairy tale that draws attention to a serious issue in LGBTQ+ representation”
We had to wait until 2017 for Disney’s first ever gay character to make it on screen – namely Gaston’s sidekick LeFou in Bill Condon’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ live action remake. Cyrus Goodman, from Disney Channel’s ‘Andi Mack’, created a stir in February this year for being the first character on a Disney show to say “I’m gay” after coming out in Season Two. And we all can’t wait for Jack Whitehall’s mysterious “openly gay” character in next year’s ‘Jungle Cruise’. Despite all this, we all know Disney has a long way to go for LGBTQ+ representation, and it’s precisely this that comes under fire in Rich Watkins hilariously risqué cabaret show, now doing a run of Edinburgh previews.
This one-man-marathon sees Prince Henry leaving the land of fairy tales and princesses to enter the ‘real world’ and discover what it means to be gay. His fairy godfather shows him the way into the London gay “scene” where he meets an array of charming men (from Bashful to… erm… Sleepy) and finds comfort and community in (you guessed it) Above the Stag. His journey teaches him some crucial lessons. By finding community, he eventually learns how to be himself – even in the hostile, heteronormative landscape of fairy tale land.
Watkins, who is both writer and performer, has constructed a charming and whimsical show. A smattering of audience participation keeps the crowd engaged and in hysterics, and his witty reimagining of Disney songs is endlessly entertaining (highlights include a recontextualised version of “Someday My Prince Will Come” that you’ll never forget). Behind the shimmer curtain lies an important message however. Gay identity is often shaped by what we see – if we don’t see ourselves, how can we learn to be ourselves?
Denholm Spurr’s direction, coupled with Simone Murphy’s choreography, ensure the silliness remains throughout, and Watkins really works hard here, responding well to audience heckles and good-spirited joining in. Watkins could be bolder with his singing (there’s a fantastic voice in there desperate to get out) and could trust his audience with the jokes more, but overall this is a frivolous, fun fairy tale that draws attention to a serious issue in LGBTQ+ representation whilst nevertheless making sure everyone, Disney fan or no, is thoroughly entertained.
Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich
Happily Ever Poofter
Above the Stag until 2nd July as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe preview tour
Previously reviewed at this venue: