Camden Fringe Festival 2017: Pageant at the London Irish CentreCultureTheatre
Pageant, a musical comedy about a beauty pageant with an all-male cast, debuted off-broadway in 1991 and a year later enjoyed a successful run in the West End. While the original performance could no doubt capitalise on the novelty of men in dresses, using it to highlight the ridiculousness of the mainstream pageant scene of the time, the material is now clearly showing its age.
In a post-Rupaul’s Drag Race world, drag is far from a comedic novelty in and of itself, and the existence of serious drag and transgender beauty pageants is widely known. Therefore this rendition of Pageant, directed by co-author Bill Russell, manages to stay enjoyable, but only by the skin of its teeth.
The staging and a fair amount of the costumes are glitzy, flimsy even rudimentary, however, one could easily argue that it simply adds to the satire. The audience is largely enthralled, but for every moment of highly effective comedy, there seems to be an equal and opposite dud.
For example, Kevin Grogan as Miss West Coast and Alex Anstey as Miss Great Plains are largely outstanding during their talent segments. Anstey in particular takes every chance to draw the eye and steal the show as the awkward, livestock-breeding, beige-loving Miss Great Plains. However the puppeteering offered by Adam O’Shea as Miss Deep South is unconvincing. On top of that, there is virtually no skit or musical number that doesn’t go on a little too long to be fully effective.
This may have something to do with the age of the material, but also with the length of the play itself. Pageant is a two-hour-long musical with little plot and no character development to speak of, and as such it would have benefited from a little fat trimming. With that being said, there are several genuinely hilarious moments, and, especially in the case of Miss Bible Belt (John McManus), the musical numbers are on point. Therefore Pageant, while dated, still manages to serve up some campy fun.
Photo: Tim Austin
Pageant is at the London Irish Centre from 10th until 26th August 2017. For further information or to book visit here.
For further information about Camden Fringe Festival 2017 visit the website here.