Date Reviewed: 26th May, 2009
Venue: The Spiegeltent
The 2009 Queer Up North Festival ends in suitable style and
enthusiasm. For all the desire to push boundaries and even shock, there
is an old-fashioned aspect to the Finale. These
are people who have worked hard to perfect their craft and can now
perform, for our entertainment and with apparent ease, acts which at
times are dangerous.
Despite the professionalism there are still pleasantly rough edges -
an inappropriately raucous introduction to a tender ballad or the
Forget Me Nots cracking up when watching one of the other acts. The
Finale shows off the strengths and reveals the weaknesses of the
Spiegeltent. Bags of atmosphere but rotten sightlines obscuring parts
of the show.
The 2009 Festival has been very well organised and that applies also
to the Finale. Instead of the acts performing individually they mix
together allowing true variety.
Julia Atlas Muse is a late addition to the bill and the only act who
hasn’t quite left behind her novelty status entirely. Neither of her
acts - involving climbing inside an enormous balloon and being attacked
by a disembodied hand - achieve the target of being unusual and funny
at the same time.
Marcella Puppini and her eight-piece backing band The Forget Me Nots
are unlikely to be forgotten as they are visually striking. Puppini
looks like an S&M version of Joyce Grenfell and her band, in white
vests, dark pants, braces and berets are a dream. The music is cabaret
style but, as if aware that the audience is unfamiliar with her
material, Puppini restrains her voice to ensure that the lyrics are
audible. The effect is less dramatic than the songs - tales of cosmetic
surgery and discipline - deserve.
It is always hard to convey the impact of acrobatics in print as the
actions sound so ordinary until you take into account that they are
being performed over the heads of the audience and without a net. The
two performances by Empress Stah are quite distinct. The first is
almost innocently saucy and the second deeply erotic. Both are
Ursula Martinez closes the first half and opens the second part of
the Finale. Her Hanky Panky routine is now internet legend but seen
live what surprises is her commitment to both aspects of the act. The
magic routine, where a hanky vanishes and reappears under her clothes
requiring her to strip, is impressive as it is clearly not up her
sleeve - she has none.
The strip is performed with full bump and grind moves to reveal the
shocking final location of the hanky. Hamming up her heritage, Martinez
opens part two with a lengthy sequence teaching us to talk dirty in
Spanish before acknowledging that she was born in Croydon but finds a
degree of ethnicity a cynical advantage. It is hilarious.
Miss Behave works hard as MC. Bigging up the other performers and
organising the audience when not centre stage. All aspects of her act
-from swallowing swords and chair legs to whipping away a table cloth
without disturbing the settings - are performed with self-deprecating
charm and humour. Her stage banter is as sharp as her sword.
At one point Miss Behave describes the show as Not so much a ‘Wow’ as a ‘Why?’
The Queer Up North Finale is most definitely a ‘Wow’.