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In Capacity House
Published on Monday, 13 May 2013

Promotional Image

3 stars

Regency Tavern (venue website)
2-4, 9-11, 16-18 May, 7:30pm-8:30pm
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

 Suitable for age 16+ only.

An anxious man mutters quietly to himself as he watches TV. There are chemicals in the food and we’re all addicted. People keep coming into his room and moving his things. Something’s clearly not quite right, but from the bag of shopping he spills over the floor, it appears that he’s still connected to the outside world – barely.

This man is drag diva Miss Diagnosis. But here he’s in his civvies: he’s just a bloke, and a bloke with problems. As the hour progresses he rants about the life of stardom he should have had and the past he can’t escape. His drag persona was perhaps once an escape route, but now it’s become part of his psychosis, as he rehearses compulsively for a big show that only exists in his mind.

The setting for the show, the cellar of the Regency Tavern, worked extremely well. The pub upstairs is bright and opulent, while ever-so-slightly trashy; the cellar space below is a grim, den-like hole with peeling paint and a distinct sense of damp in the air. It links perfectly into the themes of the show: the horrible underbelly of sparkly showbiz glamour. The bright, brash warmth with grubbier underpinnings could also be a metaphor for the drag transformation itself.

This is a quiet, sad story. It’s quite slight and the biggest hook is the transformation that takes place halfway through, as Miss Diagnosis’s jeans and T-shirt are shed to be replaced with a dress, heels and a wig. It’s a shame that the transformation felt half-hearted. Littered on the floor of during the show are photographs of Miss Diagnosis in her full regalia and the version that is presented in the show isn’t as dramatic, with simpler make up and clothes. And while the context justified this, it felt like a missed trick. In the end, without that hook or any other kind of show stopper, the final result is just a little bit too slight, a little too repetitive.

This show is small. It’s a personal story and Ken McLoone’s performance as Miss Diagnosis is subtle and understated, almost the opposite of every other drag show. It could easily slip by unnoticed in a big, bombastic fringe full of dazzling spectacle like The Lady Boys of Bangkok. But really, McLoone’s play has a substance that surface sparkle can’t compete with; it’s a show that reveals what’s behind the curtain, and it isn’t pretty.

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