The Woo Factor
Though I hope he’ll never become a National Treasure, who doesn’t love Jonny Woo? And I loved Jonny Woo even a little bit more after seeing his Un-Royal Variety show last weekend at the Hackney Empire. The performers were brilliantly inventive, delightfully alternative and stunningly professional, avoiding any drag artistry clichés or repetitive themes. As a production, it rocked – in every sense.
The acts kept coming, thick and fast. My favourites? Perhaps predictably for a middle-aged, straight, cisgendered white male, were Peter and Bambi Heaven, the Antipodean duo with an all-too convincing magician’s-assistant-being-sliced-like-salami act and a hilarious souring stage relationship that was also heading for the meat slicer, followed by Peter’s extraordinary demonstration of dirty diabolo dancing. And then, equal first, came the all-singing, all-pregnant, Kate Middleton Choir (see featured image), fronted by Jonny himself.
As its title suggests, this show was all about variety and diversity… and subversion. Lucy McCormick was brilliant as an insecure, manic diva struggling successfully to find the Hero in herself and her supporting team, Ted Rogers and Lennie, even if was just the Cadbury’s variety plucked (mercifully wrapped) from the depths of one orifice or another.
Frank Lavender as a grey-suited, bespectacled and bearded Northern stand-up droned his lines, which, scarce out of his mouth, hit the stage with a somehow satisfying thud. In wondrous contrast, Frank’s alter ego Myra Dubois delivered a lashing wit that stung our more tender sensibilities like a bullwhip applied to the softer parts of the human anatomy. There were plenty more performances of huge talent that delighted and impressed: ‘girl-in-a-suitcase’ Leah Shelton, Jayde Adams and Le Gateau Chocolat with a fabulous Barry White-esque bass-baritone range, among others.
One of the evening’s most impressive visuals were the dance sets: chapeau to choreographer Lottie Croucher. But perhaps Jonny Woo deserves most praise of all for putting together such a sparkling confection of beautiful difference.
All photographs in this article by Simon Phipps Photography