Camp triumph is one not to miss ...but lusty Casanova too rushed

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Reviews of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Charter Theatre, Preston and Casanova, The Lowry, Salford

A thoroughly modern jukebox musical full of in-your-face camp humour, breathtaking dance routines and a string of electrifying disco hits from the Seventies, ‘Priscilla’ is fast becoming another cult show like ‘Rocky Horror’.

The plot is simple but highly effective. Tick‘s estranged wife phones him from Alice Springs to say he has a six-year old son who wants to see him. This comes as an embarrassment to Tick as he is working in Sydney at as Mitzi, a drag queen. However, he hires a battered minibus (called Priscilla) and sets off with a couple of chums (more drag queens) on a 2,000-mile journey across the Australian outback. Along the way, the ‘girls’ put on shows for the locals they come across, have a few adventures and discover a lot about themselves. Ed Clegg as ‘Bernadette’, Mark Thomas (Tick) and Reece Oliver (Adam) were all brilliant as the three ‘queens’. Reece’s unexpected rendition of ‘Sempre Libra’ was itself worth the admission money.

Young Freddie Benson played Tick’s little son, Mark Howard made a great ‘ole boy’ as Bob, whose wife, Shirley (Cheryl Nicholls) gave an interesting new meaning to ping pong, and Gayle Croker was Tick’s wife, Marion. This was a production of high professional standard from Preston Musical Comedy Society, with an unbelievable number of colourful costumes, constant scene changes and great music. It runs until tomorrow. Book now. A show Preston will always remember.

Ron Ellis

The reputation of serial seducer Casanova will always precede him and choreographer Kenneth Tindall honours it in full with a lusty and just occasionally erotic ballet that switches between settings in Venice and Paris. The scale is reflected in Christopher Oram’s spectacular designs and costumes and Alastair West’s shadowy lighting. It creates a spectacle ravishing to look at, if not always totally seductive in its overall effect. In trying to distil the essence of a complex character into two hours Tindall still uses too much of the

story from Ian Kelly’s award-winning biography, to the extent where dance seems secondary to the need to push the plot along. It’s a speed exemplified by several characters repeatedly skidding on to stage in not always the most elegant fashion. The movement subsequently becomes as geometric and perplexing as the contents of the ‘forbidden book’ that Casanova conceals from the Catholic church’s prying inquisitors. His frequent

liaisons are often interrupted by the arrival of new characters or another storyline. These scenes, and for an all-too-brief moment in the second act, the duet with Hannah Bateman as Henriette, give Giuliano Contadini – in the title role – a chance for some dance expression beyond the clear athleticism he displays throughout. Casanova runs here until tomorrow.

David Upton