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Jonny Woo: Wonder Woo-Man
Published on Tuesday, 14 August 2012
5

5 stars

Assembly George Square (venue website)
Cabaret
1-12, 14-26 Aug, 10:30pm-11:30pm
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

 Recommended for age 16+ only.

Any show where the penultimate delight involves a man dressed as a jaw-droppingly convincing Mary Portas, giving lap dances to the front row, surely must be a show to love. It was something of a bumpy ride to get here – but I enjoyed every loop and twist.

Jonny Woo is an alternative drag act. He doesn’t just dress up and lip synch while making off-colour jokes; he twists the art of drag into something else, sometimes something quite grotesque and sinister. His poet Spam Ayres, who has boxing gloves for fake boobs and a disturbing mask, is as compelling as anything you would see in a piece of performance art – and at points, his wigs, combined with his skills as a physical performer, draw obvious parallels between drag and other forms of clowning and mask wearing.

And he is all charm, when he needs to be. Before we’ve even begun the show Woo is welcoming us, chatting away, telling me I have to come up on stage because I’m a reviewer and then doing a quick, impromptu version of Beyoncé’s dance from Put a Ring On It. It is all very bewitching.

Some people worry about the politics of drag queens, whether the high heels and the high hair are hiding some nastiness towards women. This may sometimes be the case, but it is certainly not what is going on here. Woo’s look doesn’t mimic anything; rather he complicates and muddies ideas of gender, with his over-done make up sitting atop an extremely masculine torso and hairy, male legs. And when Woo celebrates being ‘Dressed As a Girl’ (the sort-of etymology for drag) he is joyful and a delight in his happy appropriation of all things feminine.

But his greatest delight is his finale – where Woo, dressed (of course) as Wonder Woman, with key audience members bewigged and coached into a triumphant dance routine, delivers and clear and glorious message. Quite simply, this show is a scintillating lesson in self-acceptance and colour and glitter and, yes, wonder. Fabulous; Ms Portas should be very, very flattered indeed.

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FROM OUR ARCHIVES

These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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