Jonny Woo’s Un-Royal Variety
Reviewed -20th October 2018
“this annual festival is a joyous celebration of the scene in all its camp, disruptive naughty glory”
This is the third year for Jonny Woo’s queer, sexy, ribald, irreverent take on this most British of formats, and it’s clear that this fabulous evening has now rightly taken its place in London’s alternative social calendar. London now leads the world in queer performance, and this annual festival is a joyous celebration of the scene in all its camp, disruptive naughty glory. Jonny is the perfect host – witty, warm and salacious in equal measure – and Julian Smith’s costumes are delicious throughout. It is a long evening, at four hours, but the acts come fast and furious and are well-balanced enough that time flies by. This reviewer has to confess to being utterly disabled by laughter on more than one occasion – a treat indeed.
The whole show is cheerfully sweary from beginning to end, but there is a clear tonal arc to proceedings, and the second half is significantly filthier than the first. If you blanch at nudity and overt drug references, this is really not the night for you! After an explosive opening number, which sets the scene for the gender play throughout, the show begins with supremely professional high-camp drag from Myra Dubois. She opens the floodgates for the surge of talent to follow, and it is worth remembering that the energetic silliness of acts such as Garry Starr (Damien Warren-Smith’s brilliant comedy alter-ego), as well as the anarchic scratch-punk world of Christeene and Lucy McCormick, demand a high degree of artistic skill. Similarly, for those who might dismiss Lip Sync, Rhys Hollis’ mind-blowing routine – a fierce, sexy mash-up of Nicky Minaj, Missy Elliott and more – was a lesson in performance precision.
And there are voices too. From Sooz Kempner’s belting rendition of the Chorus Line favourite The Music and the Mirror, to the magnificent surprise of comedienne Jayde Adams’ huge operatic soprano, unleashed after her whip-smart comedy set, to Carla Lippis’ in-your-face and dangerous ‘I’m a Liar’, the Hackney Empire resounded with song throughout the evening. Special mention must also go here to the wondrous Theresa May choir – in splendid voice as well as being eye-wateringly funny. Laughter is nigh on continuous for the duration of the show, and every audience member will come away with highlights. Bourgeois & Maurice’s outrageous and lyrically brilliant take on overpopulation – Babies – and Mawaan Rizwan’s unique blend of song, dance and stand-up were personal favourites.
It is to Woo’s credit that important issues affecting the LGBTQIA+ community were woven in to the show’s glittering fabric – the importance of pronouns, trans equality, femme visibility and female visibility were all part of the tapestry. Equally, the terrific sketch between Le Gateau Chocolat and Adrienne Truscott was an affectionate poke at well-intentioned woke behaviour. The facility for self-parody is the surest sign of confidence, which Jonny Woo and this exceptional line-up exude from their pores. All Hail Their Majesties. Long May They Reign.
Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw
Photography by Studio Prokopiou
Jonny Woo’s Un-Royal Variety