Set in 1980, the debut play by sisters Nicola and Stacey Victoria Bland tells the story of their real-life godmother, a transgender woman, and her life in Romford and the Golden Girl drag bar in Soho.
While the play contains some promisingly funny moments, a 70-minute running time proves inadequate for a plot that encompasses Vicky’s journey towards physical transition, as well as her gaining the understanding of her loved ones, in a year when everything seems to go wrong for her.
There are stand-out performances from Wendi Peters, as Vicky’s tolerant but concerned mother, and Ben Welch as Fat Pearl, her messy, musical drag queen guardian and pimp. The play also explores the complicated historical boundary between donning drag and being trans. Matt Greenwood’s Vicky is both poised and vulnerable, but some killer lines aside, the other characters remain one-dimensional: the junkie, the best friend, the punk with a heart of gold.
The story requires more space to stretch out and develop. At the moment, scenes of drug-taking feel dashed off and the dialogue is often heavily expository.
Martha Hegarty’s set is largely taken up by a jutting platform that’s infrequently used and some neon bar signs. This adds to the rather by-the-numbers feel of Victoria Gimby’s production, as does the desultory sound design. Though some audience members are seated at cafe tables and chairs around the stage, this doesn’t help the action feel any less hesitant or constrained.