A Show That Drags, Rather Than A Drag Show

Privates On Parade, Union Theatre ★★★☆☆

By Chris Bridges Last edited 13 months ago

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A Show That Drags, Rather Than A Drag Show Privates On Parade, Union Theatre 3
Image: Toby Lee

Set in the late 1940s in an army song and dance unit stationed in Malaya, this 40-year-old period piece is centred round ultra-camp ageing thespian Terri and naïve newcomer Steve. You might have seen the 1982 film with John Cleese and Dennis Quilley or caught the 2012 revival with Simon Russell-Beale looking glorious in drag. This production, sadly, fails to rejuvenate what feels like a tired script and in parts feels as dried up a stick of old grease paint. Rather than a drag show, it’s more of a show that drags.

Image: Toby Lee

The show has merits. The cast work hard and the song and dance numbers hit the mark, mining the comedy from these pastiches of Noel Coward, Marlene Dietrich and Carmen Miranda. Simon Green is nothing less than stellar in his portrayal of brittle old Terri, both in and out of drag, displaying his O.T.T. camp and his vulnerability with aplomb, but he feels misplaced in what’s an otherwise lacklustre revival. Scene shifts feel clunky, the laughs feel laboured and it’s more tepid than it It Ain't Half Hot Mum. It’s worth a trip to Southwark just to see Simon Green’s star turn, though.

Image: Toby Lee

Privates on Parade, Union Theatre, Old Union Arches, 229 Union Street, SE1 0LR, £20-22.50, until 17 December 2017.

Last Updated 27 November 2017