The 18th Queer Up North Festival ends with a compilation show that offers excerpts from the various acts and gives the performers the chance to combine their talents. Although the complexity of the full shows is muted this ‘greatest hits’ approach works pretty well giving us a nice reminder of the good shows and a sense of relief at missing a couple of questionable ones.
The show is structured so that the first half comprises of excerpts and the second is made up of the acts working together. Taylor Mac opens the show with a number absent from his main that lists past lovers and manages to be both funny and moving.
Our Lady J performs her own irresistible "Trained to Kill" that has the audience singing the very rude lyrics with gusto. Unfortunately she also gives us a highly resistible version of Trent Razor’s "Hurt" that, filtered through a computer, removes the vital human element.
Meow Meow manages to convey the vulnerability and humour of her character into two songs. Breaking off from a thoughtful version of a Brecht song to instruct the audience in the correct way of showering her with flowers when organisers fail to deliver. Even better is a clumsy attempt at crowd surfing that ends with the direction to just take her to the bar.
Bourgeois and Maurice are, costumes apart, close to mainstream. With minor alterations their satirical songs would work fine on Radio 4. The visual aspect actually acts as a distraction from the very funny material.
There are a couple of acts that leave you feeling a bit uncomfortable. Jonny Woo’s "Faggot" is aggressive and David Hoyle takes Woo’s lack of tolerance towards people who do not share his lifestyle to the limit. Hoyle adopts shock tactics of being deliberately provocative and even offensive (straights should be sterilised, ‘hetronormative‘
behaviour amounts to sexual abuse etc). This has an unfortunate effect upon some members of the audience who bray their approval of his remarks as if they were participating in the Jeremy Kyle show.
Some of the pleasure that has been drained from the evening is restored by Amy Lamé's fun quiz about Manchester that, like supporters at Manchester United games, somehow manages to involve only contestants who were born elsewhere. The combination of the various acts works very well bringing out the best in the individual talents. A particular success is the combination of pianists Maurice Maurice and Lance Horne who alternate singing verses and playing the piano for "Stuck in the Middle with You." As the verses get shorter the speed gets more and more frenetic and the performance even more funny.
The show ends with a full cast performance (with audience involvement) of "The Power of Love." It is a rotten song and any camp charm is removed by yet another "Oooh aren’t we shocking?" speech by David Hoyle.
Past finales at Queer Up North have shown greater variety offering circus performances and magic acts. By concentrating exclusively on cabaret and comedy, the 2010 conclusion was not as sparkling as it could have been.
- Dave Cunningham