Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Wig Out

Tarell Alvin McCraney
Royal Court Theatre Downstairs
(2008)

Publicity photo

Yes. It is the season of sequinned queens, gorgeous princesses and fairy godmothers galore. However, in Dominic Cooke's ultra-slick production, they are not of the kind adored by screaming five-year-olds and their long-suffering parents.

Wig Out is a drag extravaganza, only intermittently masquerading as a play, acted out to club beats on a catwalk designed, like the OTT costumes, by Ultz.

The first half takes place in the House of Light, run by the suitably-named Rey-Rey and tough guy Lucian as their charges prepare for a Cinderella Ball in the House of Diabolique. The excellent Kevin Harvey plays sensitive Rey-Rey while Danny Sapani is her tough guy 'husband'.

For the post-interval ball, imagine a medieval jousting contest between drag stars and you are almost there, progress your mind to a reality TV show where camp is queen and tears guaranteed and you have made it.

Before that, a witty live chorus of sweet-singing, soul narrators Fay, Fate and Faith (Holly Quin-Ankrah, Kate Gillespie and Jessika Williams) sing us through the brief affair of Wilson/Nina played by Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and Alex Laniekun's more reserved (i.e. men's clothes and low heels) Eric.

In reality (pun probably intended), this is little more than a delaying tactic before the post-drinks spectacle as two houses collide in an orgy of frocks, lights and the coolest dance moves on any London stage.

At that point, it becomes apparent that this show has been cast for its dance rather than acting, especially when Craig Stein as Venus and Drew Caiden's Loki go head to head in a writhe to the metaphorical death.

Though Tarell Alvin McCraney injects some poetic language and at least a modicum of plot, it is Cooke and choreographer Manwe who should come out of this show with all of the plaudits after a glitzy second half that at times takes the breath away.

On opening night, the audience had at least a smattering of six foot plus beauties in high heels and party frocks and for the next month or so, Sloane Square might find itself besieged by the kind of audiences that could turn Wig Out into a Rocky Horror-type cult.

Playing until 10th January, 2009

Reviewer: Philip Fisher