For many years now, a regular sign that the Fringe is on its way has been the arrival of the unusual and unique Sabai Pavilion. It sits in Victoria Gardens, just a stones throw from Brighton’s own, somewhat more historic, Royal Pavilion and, for an entire month, this structure is home to the equally unusual and unique Lady Boys of Bangkok.
The welcome that greets the incoming audience is as warm as the Thai sunshine and radiates through the foyer and all the way into the main auditorium. We decided to enhance our cultural experience by starting with some, freshly cooked and extremely tasty, traditional Thai food. With impeccable timing we finished our meal as the announcements were being made for the imminent start of the show and, as we took our seats, the compere was stressing to us all that we are about to witness a show starring 16 male performers.
As the curtain opens his words are blown away, as are the audience, because on stage are 11 stunning “women” and 5 boy dancers. This illusion is a fundamental part of the Lady Boys success and is what makes their show so appealing. The performers mime to music by the original artists and, to be brutally honest, the lip sync work is not totally perfect. However, the absolutely stunning costumes, brilliant lighting effects and busy choreography easily compensate for this.
The songs are all either recent chart-toppers or Karaoke classics and soon the audience is singing along and, in a lot of cases, dancing as well. The parade of Divas includes Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Shirley Bassey and Cher, with the boy dancers treating us to Olly Murs and Ricky Martin.
There is a lot of comedy in this year’s show and, although it is by no means x-rated, it is certainly 15+ material. The boys take Winter Wonderland and deliver it back as Walking Round in Women’s Underwear, Katy Perry’s Fireworks is given a whole new meaning and even Victoria Wood gets the Lady Boys treatment with the, superb, I Can’t Do It making a first act appearance.
This year’s speciality act is the gold- painted Chinese acrobat, Sha Bing. Performing for the first time outside his native country, he displays a strength and power that is quite simply breathtaking. The audience watch, in stunned silence, as, on a metal pole, he lifts himself high above the crowd to perform jaw-dropping feats of the most amazing strength and dexterity.
The tempo, and party atmosphere, in act two increases with hits by Steps, Gloria Gaynor and The Weather Girls paving the way for the boys to return with The Village People’s, Y.M.C.A. After a quick change they reappear with a Queen medley before we head to Rio for the Carnival Queens finale.
The Lady Boys all have stage names as well as their own, male, names and although they are all absolutely fantastic lookalikes and superb performers, it is Ole Decha Nuchangsing who takes the tiara for the best “female” performances as both Whoopi Goldberg, from Sister Act, and Tina Turner with Oak [Taweesak Samdangrit] taking the boys crown for his supremely enthusiastic portrayal of Freddie Mercury.
Carnival Queens is probably the best in a long line of Lady Boys shows and is a “must see” at this year’s Fringe.