Underbelly, Med Quad, Edinburgh
Did you hear the one about Freddie Mercury, Kenny Everett and Princess Diana? The one where the two closet gay stars dressed the unhappy Princess in drag and took her out for the night to the infamous Royal Vauxhall Tavern in London? No, me neither. And, if it sounds like the unlikeliest story you’ve ever heard, then just take a moment to consider that it actually happened. And now it’s a musical. Not only that, but it might just be the best thing we’ve seen at The Edinburgh Fringe so far this year.
Desmond O‘Connor (not that Des O’ Connor!) has written a collection of witty and irreverent songs for the piece and this production is blessed with three stellar performances from a trio of gifted actors. As Everett, Matthew Jones (of Fringe stalwarts Frisky and Mannish) gets the voice and mannerisms just right. Tom Giles’ Freddie is also very accomplished, while Sarah Louise Young manages to portray Diana, Maggie Thatcher and (at one point) an Irish priest with aplomb. The events portrayed here are fast, funny and occasionally extremely rude (you’ll find it very hard to unsee Maggie Thatcher with a strap-on penis doing something very rude to Everett whilst quoting his infamous ‘Let’s bomb Russia’ remark).
I’ll be honest, I hadn’t really expected to rate this. The premise seemed too off-the-wall for comfort, too far-fetched by half. Discovering that it has some basis in fact was a revelation and the realisation that I was enjoying every minute of the show was the icing on the cake. The songs range from full on rock bombast to poignant ballads. You’ll be howling with laughter one moment and on the verge of tears, the next. There’s even an Everett dream sequence that features a delightful appearance by a puppet David Bowie.
Those who like their musicals quirky and irreverent should investigate this at their earliest opportunity. It’s a cracker.