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Priscilla, Queen of the Desert review at Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch – ‘strong vocals, disappointing design’

Tom Giles, Daniel Bailey and Mark Inscoe in Priscilla Queen of the Desert at Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch. Photo: Mark Sepple Tom Giles, Daniel Bailey and Mark Inscoe in Priscilla Queen of the Desert at Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch. Photo: Mark Sepple
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The beauty of Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott’s musical Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is the way it retains every aspect of the source material – Elliott’s award-winning 1994 cult movie – while using familiar musical numbers to heighten the narrative.

In a way that’s rare in jukebox musicals, the production numbers unfold effortlessly from the storyline and the songs are so integral to the lives of lip-syncing drag trio Bernadette, Tick and Adam that they become a form of self-expression.

Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch’s regional production of the show incorporates a lively community chorus to supplement the cast. Douglas Rintoul’s version spills into the auditorium with unashamed bravado. Tom Giles brings an earthy resolution to the role of Tick, whose search for acceptance from his estranged son underscores the show. His impressive vocals almost make up for the fact that he seems far from comfortable in drag; the same is true of Daniel Bailey’s otherwise excellent Adam. The standout here is Mark Inscoe’s Bernadette, whose pithy one-liners and survivor instinct do little to disguise the vulnerability of a woman at a crossroads in her life.

The energy, talent and drive of Rintoul’s production is let down by an unfocused lighting design from Mark Howland and issues with the sound. Designer Joanna Scotcher has created a set with several interesting innovations but the costumes, wigs  and make-up are over-looked and occasionally badly constructed. An unforgivable compromise in a show celebrated for its juxtaposition of drag in all its excess against the barren landscape of the Australian outback.

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Powerfully performed regional premiere undermined by a weak, unfocused design