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Saturday 10 October 2009

Review: QWU Wellington - A loud, proud thriller

Posted in: Performance
By Steve Attwood - 28th June 2009

Review: Queen of the Whole Universe
Saturday 27 June
St James Theatre, Wellington.

Miss France was missing because of an accident with a hotel table and Miss Mexico was stuck in quarantine at Wellington Airport, but all the rest of the international and intergalactic beauties were there in force for the first ever production of QWU to come to the capital!

And the civil servants, blue-rinse-and-fur theatre aristocracy and a who's who of the politically active capital queer elite, mixing cheerfully with the city's hoi polloi were there in force to greet them.


Wellington did QWU proud – and vice versa - although the whole thing came close to a collapse of inter-island diplomacy when Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast broke the golden rule and out-dressed (almost outshone) hosts Buffy and Bimbo with a sleek sparkly black number and cape that had drag queens’ eyes turning a jealous shade of green!

Miss Garden of Eden & 'friend'
With more drag queens on stage than at any time anywhere else in the world, and enough wigs to stuff a mattress factory to capacity for a year, the glitz, the glamour, the slap and the shtick were there in equal quantity and laid on as thick as a drunken plasterer’s trowel. Sure there were times when the humour was over-rehearsed and mistimed, when the choreography was as slack as a street queen’s business outside a church on a Sunday, and the emoting wrung out to the final salt encrusted tear – but that’s drag; come one, come all, the good and the bad, it has to be one of the most inclusive art forms in history!

More important, it was fabulous fun and fabulously funny, over the top, sometimes acidly clever and, often, utterly beautiful. It occurs to me that the strap line "a very queer beauty pageant" could easily have been changed for the Wellington performance to "a very queer wearable arts".

QWU winner: Miss Oz - Barbie Prawne
Miss Oz, Ms Barby Prawne (a.k.a. Owen Anderson) emerged a deserving triumph, though my money was on second place getter Miss Japan, Kitty Tammy-Gucci (Andrae Fassier) for sheer artistry and my heart (as an aging leather queen) was firmly beating for deservedly third placed Miss England Annette Curtain (Ed Jenner). Us aging queens have to root for each other – no-one else will (apart from the occasional obliging gerontophile).

One of the undoubted crowd favourites was the headgear of nations parade, where the competition seemed to be one of how much height and width could be added to a queen's crowning glory without actually resulting in a royal fall from grace. Miss Zambia cleverly avoided this dilemma by appearing in a wheelchair! Here we saw colour, imagination and (sheer strength!) aplenty with some crowd-pleasing UV and fancy electronics thrown in for good measure.

Of course, the final artistic performance by the finalists was the finale with the fizz.

Again, I was inclined to go for Miss Japan's journey from grace to Nippon pop shock – but a gutsy performance from Miss Oz undoubtedly carried her through to the ultimate crown.  Unfortunately for Miss England I was too distracted by one of her soldier boys (and the fact that – sadly – I knew every word of every clichéd song) and did not give her the attention she deserved!

Your hostesses Bimbo & Buffy
As a Tolkienophile I was deeply saddened when Miss Middle Earth failed to make it through and there was definitely a few Wellingtonians – the spiritual home, after all, of Middle Earth - who seemed to share my distress. I did wonder what it would be like to swing off those ears while . . . mmm, well, too much information about my imagination!

Tributes, of course, to the dynamic duo that makes up the B 'n' B team – though God knows why Bimbo needs a microphone, that girl could be heard at a convention for the severely hard of hearing – from the next room! Perhaps she was projecting for the outer space audiences following the fortunes of Miss Venus and the obligatory Miss (nudge an' a wink) Uranus.

All in all it was a loud and proud $2 shop extravaganza. I'm sure the large crowd of Wellingtonians will hope that this first visit will not be the last. It was, to paraphrase the late great king of pop, a thriller!

Special award for most inclusive attitudes must go to the audience itself. Wellington turned up in a startling array of ages, looks, generations, orientations and gender classifications. A sign of a great city. Made me feel quite proud!'s video of the curtain falling on QWU's world record-busting number of drag queens is shown below.

Steve Attwood - 28th June 2009

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