Touring – reviewed at Liverpool Empire
SOMETIMES there’s nothing quite so sweet as seeing an act who would by no means be considered mainstream fill the city’s biggest theatre off their own back. As an example, Brendan ‘Mrs Brown’ O’Carroll managed it all the time back in the days before TV stardom, and now another drag act, this time RuPaul’s Drag Race royalty Bianca del Rio, did fans of the show proud with her first proper Liverpool theatre date.
Her Blame it on Bianca del Rio world tour has hit the UK and gone down a storm (or, hurricane); and watching her show grow over a few short years to something so huge is still a real buzz. She won season six of Drag Race in 2014 and remains one of the show’s biggest successes. The same season launched the careers of the likes of Courtney Act and Adore Delano.
But it’s Bianca’s line in insult comedy that has catapulted her into big theatres. Those who long for the days of the late Joan Rivers would be more than satisfied with the equal opportunity offending and monstrously scathing quick wit that constitutes her act.
I’ve met Bianca del Rio at shows a bunch of times now, and in real life she’s absolutely, genuinely adorable – it’s captivating. On stage is a whole other story, and sometimes it’s hard not to feel somewhat torn between supporting that ‘anything goes’ defence when jokes veer into pretty unpalatable territory. In for a penny, in for a pound and all that. Comedy done well really should have no boundaries it’s true, and Bianca’s fearlessness is all part of her appeal, but in this day and age the sensitivities of politics and -isms and all of that can be incredibly hard to ignore.
But before we got to that, opening act Myra DuBois was an absolute riot. A brassy, veteran Yorkshire queen, her old-school cabaret act is a thing of real joy. This was drag at its best – playful, hilarious, and great fun, with a smatter of the sort of musical variety that brings to mind the late, great Les Dawson. If you’d have told me before she came on I’d end up willingly joining into a mass singalong of ‘I Know Him So Well’ while stone cold sober I’d never have believed you; that’s some entertainment.
After that, Bianca took to the stage for a relentless barrage of fast-paced adult comedy, with targets in sight including Donald Trump (natch), the LGBT community, and other Drag Race queens. Needless to say, she’s not for the faint-hearted; but there’s a catharsis to her schtick in these strange times.
The goal for many Bianca fans is for her to ‘read’ them with a tailor-made roast; so when the final segment of the show is given over to an audience Q&A she obliges in spectacular style, showcasing her caustic improv skills and giving each show its own individual twist.
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